The ear - what our hearing accomplishes

The philosopher Immanuel Kant is said to have said: "Can not see, separates from things, can not hear, separates from man." He judged hearing as a social sense, perhaps more important than seeing. Our modern world is strongly influenced by visual stimuli. Therefore, the importance of hearing and the power of our ears are often underestimated today.

Our hearing - an important meaning

Already in the womb we can hear. No wonder newborns can tell their mother's voice from all other voices before they are able to recognize their face. Day and night, the ears are constantly in use - for a lifetime. They do incredible things: we can perceive extremely quiet noises. If we could just as well see, we would still recognize a 10-watt bulb from 1, 000 kilometers away.

We hear a range of over 10 octaves - from 20 hertz to 16, 000 hertz. The power of the eye is only one octave. If you were to transfer the dynamic range of hearing to a scale, this scale could weigh everything from the grain of sand to the tractor without having to be switched. Hearing is the most sensitive and dynamic sensory organ of the human being.

What the ear does for us every day

  • Alert
    The sense of hearing alerts and warns. Telephone bells, doorbells, bangs, shouts, thunder or horns can make us aware of dangers, especially in traffic.
  • Orientate
    Hearing supports orientation in the room. With our eyes closed, we hear whether we are in a large room or in a small room. Since we hear with two ears, we can estimate from which direction noises come.
  • Enable communication through language
    Thanks to our hearing, we can learn to speak. With a healthy ear, conversations are possible even under unfavorable conditions - background noise, bad telephone connection, echoing rooms.
  • Inform
    We receive a lot of information over our ears - talking, telephone, radio, television.
  • Transport moods
    When talking, we hear more than words. We also perceive the volume, speech melody or pitches and decode the moods and feelings of the speakers, such as irony, astonishment, aggression.

More "visual types"

Nevertheless, adults give preference to vision, according to a study by Prof. Vladimir Sloutsky, University of Ohio. He showed four-year-olds and adults a picture and played three notes at the same time. Later, this combination of image and sound sequence should be recognized. While all adults focused exclusively on the right image, well, half of the children (53 percent) oriented themselves mainly on the tone sequence. Although she was - as another test showed - just as easily able to immediately recognize the right image.

Children like sounds

While adults rely on visual perception, children seem to focus on listening. The scientist believes that young children focus more on sounds because otherwise they would not be able to learn to speak. (FGH)

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