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Sounds that move us

Author: Stephen Compton

(MArts, PhD Candidate, Acoustic Consultant, Music Technician, Theatre Sound, Audio Education)

Many sounds move us emotionally – like the voices of our loved ones, a song that connects with us for whatever reason, tuis and bellbirds breaking the soothing wash of a gentle stream along a forest floor walk, soft rain on the roof, or silence.

Some people are attuned to specific sounds: a mother hearing the sound of a child; the mechanic identifying an engine fault without opening the bonnet; a musician or audio engineer who crafts the nuances of pitch, tone, and blend; or nurses hearing the bleep from life-enhancing machines.

Some people can filter out certain sounds, like when my wife says, “You weren’t even listening, were you?”… which I always think is a strange way to start a conversation. In an ideal world, we may wish we could filter out a colleague’s odd body noises or the thump from the party down the street at 3 am.

He who has an ear, let him hear. We can easily take for granted the incredible, tiny, and fragile hearing mechanisms that sit somewhere hidden inside our ears. These systems use the smallest bones and muscles in the human body, and within a spiral-shaped shell called the cochlea (about the size of a pea), 18,000 inner ear hair cells, so minute that they could fit on the head of a pin, help translate sound vibrations into electrical signals that our brains try and make sense of. Amazing!

Our noisy society, our enjoyment of loud events, our extensive use of headphones and earphones, and our lack of knowledge on how to manage our hearing, threaten our ability to experience the sounds we love, or just to ‘hear’ silence. We must take every opportunity to provide encouragement and tools to manage this astonishing sensory organ for the benefits good hearing provides - socially, mentally, financially, and physically. These benefits help not only the individual but society as a whole.

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