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February 16, 2019

What Do You Hear? Take An Auditory Test

It is interesting how when someone shouts the first instinct of the person being addressed is usually “WHAT!” So the person trying to communicate is obliged to repeat.

The “what” is often followed by a “why” in the listener’s mind. Why is the person shouting? Only then does the person ‘hear’ what is being said. You might not be surprised to learn that a blue whale the largest animal on earth is also the loudest animal.

When talking to hailing each other as they cruise the oceans, the conversation can reach 188 decibels, which is louder than a jet aircraft taking off. The average human conversation, non-American is about 75 decibels.

When a mother shouts at her child to stop whatever he is doing or his father will get to know that is about 80 decibels. Politicians seeking a revision of their pay are at pains to convince us that they are not shouting; instead they use a sound system but sadly still appear very shrill and loud.

Sound is a force so a doubling of distance reduces the impact of the sound considerably. To hear sound we have to have the ability to appreciate the changes in air or water or any medium that can vibrate and so conduct the sound.

If you cannot appreciate sound, then a person is diagnosed to be deaf. The primary organ used to hear is the ear and there are three main parts of the human ear: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear is easy to identify. It is what women and quite a few men use to hang stuff. The origins of such behaviour are obscure but clearly for some the outer ear acts as a cupboard for storing many types of jewellery or even a bank account for those allergic to base metals.

The middle ear is not visible but it consists of a small chamber behind the eardrum. It is filled with air so that when sound hits the eardrum the force of the sound makes waves like movements within the middle ear chamber.

Contrary to what you might imagine the eardrum actually magnifies the sounds arriving. This allows differentiation of sound. This is partly why a person shouting disturbs you.

The ear drum amplifies the sound make it seem even louder than it actually is and instead of music in the notes beneath the main sound there is even more noise!

From the middle ear the sound moves into the inner ear, which is a tube like structure, which looks like a seashell and is filled with fluid. The inner ear is divided lengthwise by a membrane along which each sound frequency has a point of resonance, kind of like the strings on the inside of a piano.

When sound of a particular frequency finds the part of the membrane it resonates and this is transmitted to the brain as a recognised frequency. A few frequencies put together make up a recognised sound, for example the sound of a teenager asking his dad for money.

The problem comes when a particular sound is heard too often and we get used to it. The human being is always looking for new things, which can either spell danger or good things.

Once we are used to a particular sound we tend to assume it and not pay too much attention to it. And there lies the danger with hearing. It can be difficult to tell whether a person who does not appear to listen has a physical defect in the structure of the ear or has a deficit in the brain because they think that ‘they have heard it all’

The solution is not to assume. Simple auditory and mental tests help. The mental part requires a person to have a good well balanced diet, including brain food, which is to encourage people to always be open to trying to learn something new.

An alert person who still has difficulty following a conversation may be having a physical problem with hearing. Then an auditory test as part of a medical exam is useful.

Otherwise what we have are people who shout at each other, much like our politicians like to do.

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