My Ears Are Alight

Per Hiselius


The capability of the human auditory system is phenomenal. The dynamic range it can handle, the frequency range it covers, and, not the least, its ability to detect and identify speech in the presence of interfering sounds is astonishing. In daily life we use this capability in many ways. We use it for speech communication as well as for alerts and alarms. We use it for analysis of devices and machines, e.g. our computers and cars. Is it on? Does it sound normal, or is something wrong? We also use it for various forms of entertainment. However, there’s a flip side to the great capability. From an engineering point of view it poses challenges when designing buildings, machines, and devices such as phones, computers, headphones, microphones, etc. And although we have a phenomenal ability to understand speech in challenging situations, we often mishear or misunderstand. Human hearing is also quite easily damaged. This paper presents old and new results related to the capability of our hearing, and some of the challenges related to the same. The content of this article was presented at the Acoustics Week in Canada 2014 as one of three invited keynote presentations.


auditory system; dynamic range; frequency range; speech in noise; misheard lyrics; hearing loss

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