5 Things You Didn’t Know About Our Sense Of Hearing


In our 2nd article in the “Senses Series” we look at some interesting things you may not have known about our Sense of hearing.  In South Sedan, near the border with Ethiopia, a tribe known as the Mabaan reportedly live in a place so quiet that their ability to hear has become amazingly acute.  Legend has it that even the oldest Mabaan can make out the words of another tribesman whispering to him from across a wide field!

In theory any one of us could do the same, provided we spent our lives similarly sheltered from noise.  At birth our ears are pristine Sense Of Hearing organs, capable of discerning among more than 300,000 sounds.  As we age and are exposed to more loud noises, the hair cells on the cochlea, in the inner ear, flatten becoming less sensitive.  Yet even as we age, our eardrums remain finely tuned.  They can pick up sounds so faint that the eardrum itself moves a distance less than the diameter of a hydrogen molecule.  (This sensitivity developed to protect us from predators.)

Our brain processes sounds a thousand times faster than images and registers sounds even as we sleep.  This constant bath of noise affects everything from our concentration to our health.  Researchers have found that living in loud areas can raise blood pressure by an average of 5 to 8 percent.  Even our ancestors understood how sound could damage as well as delight:  The word “noise” comes from “nausea”, the Latin word for sickness.  But sound can also be a positive force.  A study conducted on premature infants, for instance, found that they were able to leave the hospital sooner if soft music was played while they slept.


5 Things You Didn’t Know About Hearing


  1. Even small noises cause the pupil of the eye to dilate.  This may be why surgeons, jewelers, and others who perform delicate manual operations tend to be bothered by uninvited noise…..It slightly blurs their vision.
  2. A large meal will temporarily make your hearing less sharp.
  3. Your ears can determine the direction from which a sound comes quite well, but are less adept at accessing how far away the source is.
  4. 90% of a young child’s knowledge is attributed to hearing background conversation.  More than a third of children with even slight hearing loss, researchers estimate, will fail at least one grade.
  5. Tinnitus-a buzzing or ringing sound in the ears affects roughly 15% of the U.S. population.  The condition is ancient: it’s described on clay tablets from Assyria.


Tell us what you thought in the comments below about our short look at our sense of hearing.  Stay tuned for our upcoming look at the senses of taste, touch & smell.


Lynne is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Therapeutic Massage and Ethics Educator with extensive study in preventative nutrition and physiology. For over 35 years, Lynne has helped thousands of people through consulting, seminars and writing.

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