How We Perceive Sound
Auditory scene analysis is the
process by which we perceive the distance,
direction, loudness, pitch, and tone of many
individual sounds simultaneously.
Analyzing auditory scenes is a
complex human ability. Our environment surrounds
us with constant sound. Even the smallest
vibrations and echoes help us to identify our
surrounding area. Sounds in a small area produce
fewer echoes than sounds in a large area.
The simplest way in which we can
determine the location of the source of a sound
is by comparing the intensity of the sound in
our ears. We can further pinpoint a sound's
position in space by using the ear-body-brain
combination to decode localization cues.
Localization cues are divided into two
There are dynamic cues, such as
vision, reverberation, early echo response, and
There are also static cues:
shoulder echo, pinna response, head shadow, and
interaural time difference. The pinna response
refers to the fact that the pinna filters out
certain frequencies of sound depending on the
direction from which the sound comes. Sounds
coming from the back may, for example, have
their 1000 Hz frequencies filtered out by the
back of the pinna. We perceive this as a subtle
change in the quality of a sound, but we are
used to having sounds coming from behind us
filtered in this way.
Because of this we are able to
use this change in quality as a way to determine
if the sound comes from in front of us, below
us, behind us, or over us.
Newer technologies, such as 3D
sound and other advances in the digital era, are
refining the process further. These recordings,
however, are still crude imitations of the
process by which the human ear receives and
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