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Focusing hearing

  1. Sep 3, 2007 #1
    Can a person switch hearing sounds from different directions by mental focus only, or are mechanical changes always involved?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2007 #2
    I imagine that you don't need to physically move your head or the sound sources to switch what you're listening to. I'm reminded very much of the cocktail party effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocktail_party_effect) which doesn't necessarily deal with sounds coming from different directions, but does show that you hear many sounds but can selectively focus on just some of them.

    Note some of the other experiments described in the wiki article. I think they seem to reach the same conclusion concerning your question.

    And for a personal related story, I was just listening to some music before and tried to determine which instruments were being used. I was able to focus on certain sounds at different times in order to do this. I don't see why it would have made a difference if I had each instument coming from a separate speaker.
  4. Sep 3, 2007 #3
    most of the time mechanical change is involved and in very large quantities. but the thing is by mentally focusing in a direction, you are but trying to change reality. it is said if you want to hear something, you can by being even a few metres away from it! ok i dont say that is not true but 50% of people think is just our own imaginaton. but most likely, the sound with the most power will be what you hear. believe in what you think is right though.
    (visit my blog!)
  5. Sep 5, 2007 #4


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    Your brain has the ability to behave as a selective filter regarding a multiple input of sounds. This allows you to hear specific sounds more clearly while ignoring the other sounds. You describe this as mental focus.

    Detecting direction of a sound, is a somewhat mechanical process, in that it requires two physical inputs (our ears) to be separated by a distance. A particular incoming sound, reaches our brain, at two different times (out of phase). By using this difference in time, our brain analyzes those two inputs (one from each ear) and perceives direction to the sound.

    Another mechanical aspect of hearing is that sound is a variation of pressure, propagated through a medium (air, water) against our ear's tympanic membrane. But this activity alone, does not help you detect direction to the sound.
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