How Do We Hear Voices in a Crowd?

How Do We Hear Voices in a Crowd?

Have you ever wondered how hearing works? The ears are incredibly complex structures that effortlessly decipher sound ways, allow you to hear everything around you, localize sounds, and even pick out voices in a crowd. However, for the nearly 40 million Americans with hearing loss, the ears aren’t working as well as they should, and hearing in places with a lot of background noise seems impossible.

How Do the Ears Hear in Noise?

The ears are complex structures that can hear very subtle differences in sounds. Even with sounds that are the same pitch, and nearly the same volume, the ears are able to identify what the sound is, and this allows you to focus on speech sounds and tune out distracting background noises.

Recently, scientists have uncovered the mechanism that allows the ears to pick up on these small differences and help you hear better. First, let’s review how the ear works. When sound waves make their way down the ear canal, they hit the middle ear, causing it to vibrate. This moves the fluid filled cochlea, or inner ear. As the fluid moves, delicate hair cells that line the inner ear detect the movement, turn these sound waves into electrical impulses, and send these signals to the brain, where your brain interprets them as sound. Depending on the strength of the wave, the hair cells react differently, and this helps the brain determine what the sound is.

However, in 2007 researchers at MIT discovered a second mechanism, the tectorial membrane that lines a part of the cochlea. This membrane is tiny, and made out of a gel-like material found nowhere else in the human body. It’s covered in tiny pores, and these pores help regulate which hair cells are activated, and this helps the brain determine what a sound is. The tectorial membrane is like an electromechanical filter, helping sort the sounds, and giving your brain more information about the environment around you. It’s especially helpful when there are many competing sounds all happening at the same time. This tectorial membrane is what allows you to discriminate between different sounds, focus on the sounds you want to hear, and pick out a voice in a crowded place despite all the background noise.

Hearing Aids that Mimic the Ear

Hearing technology continues to advance each and every year. Several years ago, hearing aids amplified all the sounds around you, and it would be a struggle for hearing aid users to hear in places with a lot of background noise. However, modern technology is mimicking the complex structures of the ears, and hearing aid designers are finding new ways to program these sophisticated devices.

Advanced programs can sift through the sounds entering the mics of your hearing aids. They help you localize sounds, and often help you focus on sounds in front of you, since normally you’re facing the person you’re trying to hear. These programs are designed to make hearing in noise easy, so they amplify speech sounds, reduce background noise and other distracting sounds, and enhance your listening experience. They do all the work, and you enjoy the benefits. Your hearing aids will give you clear hearing in any and every listening environment, from a boardroom meeting to drinks with friends or an afternoon in the park with the kids.

My Hearing Centers

At My Hearing Centers our team of hearing health specialists are dedicated to helping you hear. If you’ve been struggling to hear clearly, find that you can’t follow conversations, or have stopped going out because you can’t pick out a voice in a crowded place, then visit us today for a comprehensive hearing test. Once we determine what sounds you’re missing, we’ll work with you to find the perfect device that will fill in the gaps of your hearing, and have you back to doing the things you love. Sadly, only 20% of Americans who have hearing loss wear hearing aids. Don’t be part of that statistic, and don’t let hearing loss hold you back. Looking for a sleek, sophisticated device, or something so tiny no one will ever notice your hearing aids? We have it all!  Visit us today to take the first step towards your future full of sound.