Getting the Volume Without Losing the Clarity

28 04 2010

No doubt you know how incredibly complex sound is and how truly remarkable it is that our hearing can extract individual elements from the sound as if it’s some advanced quantum spectral analyser. All those interacting sub-atomic vibrations – somehow our ears work out which vibrations belong together to bring order out of chaos.

And never is this more evident than in music. Different melodies, drifting in and out of unison and harmony. Different rhythms. Different emphasis. Different voices – human or instrumental, electronic or acoustic. Somehow we can put it altogether to appreciate the whole, or tune int to an individual voice within the whole. It’s a live demonstration of the phenomenal capabilities of our hearing: brain and ears working in perfect partnership.

But here’s the thing. This ability relies on the sensory cells within the cochlea (inner ear) operating at their optimum. And just as a speaker system distorts if you push it past its limits, so too do our auditory sensory cells.

Get the volume… but you risk losing the detail. It’s akin to smashing your fist on the keys of a piano, rather than the allowing the individual keys to interact with one another.

Of course loud is good if you want to feel the music coursing through your body. And you’ll find DJs and sound engineers who pride themselves on simply “loud”. But why can’t you have both? Why can’t we have the loudness AND the detail? Do they HAVE to cancel each other out?

The mistake is thinking it’s our hearing that wants the sound loud. It’s not. It’s the rest of the body – to feel there in the centre of it all. So the trick is to control the input to your ears. That way you give the body the feeling it craves, without compromising the hearing. Best of both, and less chance of ringing in the ears and sounds going permanently dull.

So how do we control the input to our ears? Musician’s hearing protection. And that’s why those familiar with it – musicians, gigsters and other music afficionados – cannot recommend it highly enough.


Who Owns Your Hearing?

16 01 2010

Young woman with her fingers in her ears.

Here’s a fun social experiment you can try if you have no qualms about losing friends and alienating people. It’s a great way to discover the personality types within your social circle, as well as an enlightening way to answer the question as to who actually owns your hearing.

Here’s how it works…

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The Forgotten Art of Mind Reading

13 01 2010
Silent Treatment

"If you don't know, I'm not telling you."

It’s one of those clich├ęs, but I’ve experienced exactly this, and I know I’m not alone…

You’ve done something to upset your partner but you don’t know what it is. You know there’s something, though, because they’re giving you the silent treatment. Or maybe they are talking to you, but it’s somehow lost its warmth and doesn’t seem to be quite connecting with you.

So you say something along the lines of: “Tell me what’s wrong.”

You may get a “Nothing” as a response. Or you may get something like, “If you don’t know, I’m not telling you.”

This is usually where I think a silent scream of frustration. If I get really frustrated I may even pull out the classic, “I’m not a mind reader, you know.”

But the truth is, I can. And so can you…

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Hearing With a Mind of its Own

4 01 2010
Selective hearing enables us to focus in on something whilst tuning out the rest

Selective hearing enables us to focus in on something specific we want to hear or locate whilst tuning out competing noise. A bit like being told to look out for a guy in red.

Hearing has a mind of its own. Mine does at any rate. Take the following, for example….

This morning was the first day back at work after the Christmas and New Year break. And what was the first thing I noticed? That I had woken up not because any alarm had gone off but because I must have heard the central heating come on.

It’s not a particularly noisy system; in fact during the holidays and at weekends I don’t notice it – I sleep right through it. But today, and most work days, it gently stirred into my consciousness. Much better than a horrible alarm blaring out of nowhere if you ask me: it’s more like waking up on your own terms.

But the interesting thing is that somehow, while I was sleeping, my brain must be using my hearing to DECIDE whether or not to wake me.

The question is how? And can we learn to harness this power?

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