Hearing, auditory perception, or audition is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations, changes in the pressure of the surrounding medium through time, through an organ such as the ear. Sound may be heard through solid, liquid, or gaseous matter. It is one of the traditional five senses; partial or total inability to hear is called hearing loss.

In humans and other vertebrates, hearing is performed primarily by the auditory system: mechanical waves, known as vibrations are detected by the ear and transduced into nerve impulses that are perceived by the brain (primarily in the temporal lobe). Like touch, audition requires sensitivity to the movement of molecules in the world outside the organism. Both hearing and touch are types of mechanosensation. Read more ...

In the News ...

Our Brains Seem To Prefer Positive Human Sounds That Come From Our Left   IFL Science - May 22, 2023

Sounds may be physical phenomena, but to humans they also carry meaning and certain qualities. For instance, some sounds are more pleasing than others, while some are more ominous or unsettling, relaxing and soothing, or just plain noise. Now a group of Swiss researchers have discovered that our brains show a preference towards pleasing sounds made by other humans that we hear from our left-hand side.

The Human Brain Shows a Weird Preference For Sounds From The Left   Science Alert - May 22, 2023

The next time you whisper sweet-nothings into someone's ear, you might want to target their left side. Neuroscientists have discovered a strange bias in our perception of pleasing voices. According to the brain scans of 13 adults, positive human sounds, like laughter, trigger stronger neural activity in the brain's auditory system when they are heard from the left-hand side, suggesting the human auditory cortex is specially tuned to the direction of sounds that make us happy. Just why there's a preference at all isn't clear - the experiments focused only on changes in activity in the auditory cortex. How such a change translates into someone's perception of those sounds is unknown and would need to be tested in future research.

Can't Hear People When There's Noise Around? A Study Links This to Dementia Risk   Science Alert - November 7, 2022
In a study of over 80,000 adults over the age of 60, those who had trouble hearing speech in noisy environments had a greater risk of dementia, which is an umbrella term for conditions characterized by memory loss and difficulty with language and other thinking skills.

Our brains 'time-stamp' sounds to process the words we hear   Medical Express - November 7, 2022
We show how the brain achieves this feat: Different sounds are responded to with different neural populations. And, each sound is time-stamped with how much time has gone by since it entered the ear. This allows the listener to know both the order and the identity of the sounds that someone is saying to correctly figure out what words the person is saying.

Scientists discover mechanism of hearing   Medical Express - October 13, 2022
The discovery reveals the architecture of the inner ear complex that converts vibrations into electrical impulses that the brain translates as sound. Known as mechanosensory transduction, the process is responsible for the sensations of balance and sound.

FDA Approves Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids   Smithsonian - August 18, 2022
In an effort to reduce the costs of hearing aids and make the devices more widely available, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a ruling Tuesday that will allow adults with mild to moderate hearing problems to buy hearing aids over the counter and without a prescription.

Discovery of a new genetic cause of hearing loss illuminates how inner ear works   Medical Express - May 7, 2021
A gene called GAS2 plays a key role in normal hearing, and its absence causes severe hearing loss. Two to three of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with hearing loss in one or both ears. About half of these cases are genetic. Although hearing aids and cochlear implants often can help, these devices seldom restore hearing to normal

Ending a 40-year quest, scientists reveal the identity of 'hearing' protein   Medical Express - August 22, 2018
Scientists at Harvard Medical School say they have ended a 40-year-quest for the elusive identity of the sensor protein responsible for hearing and balance.The results of their research, reported Aug. 22 in Neuron, reveal that TMC1, a protein discovered in 2002, forms a sound- and motion-activated pore that allows the conversion of sound and head movement into nerve signals that travel to the brain—a signaling cascade that enables hearing and balance. Scientists have long known that when the delicate cells in our inner ear detect sound and movement, they convert them into signals. Where and how this conversion occurs has been the subject of intense scientific debate. No more, the authors say.

Cat-like 'hearing' with device tens of trillions times smaller than human eardrum   Tech Explore - March 30, 2018
The advances will likely contribute to making the next generation of ultralow-power communications and sensory devices smaller and with greater detection and tuning ranges.

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too   Medical Express - January 23, 2018
The researchers found that keeping the head still but shifting the eyes to one side or the other sparks vibrations in the eardrums, even in the absence of any sounds. Surprisingly, these eardrum vibrations start slightly before the eyes move, indicating that motion in the ears and the eyes are controlled by the same motor commands deep within the brain. The findings, which were replicated in both humans and rhesus monkeys, provide new insight into how the brain coordinates what we see and what we hear. It may also lead to new understanding of hearing disorders, such as difficulty following a conversation in a crowded room.

Gene therapy restores hearing in deaf mice   Science Daily - July 8, 2015
Using gene therapy, researchers have restored hearing in mice with a genetic form of deafness. More than 70 different genes are known to cause deafness when mutated. The scientists focused on a gene called TMC1 because it is a common cause of genetic deafness, accounting for 4 to 8 percent of cases, and encodes a protein that plays a central role in hearing, helping convert sound into electrical signals that travel to the brain.

Auditory brainstem implant: Hearing experts break sound barrier for children born without hearing nerve   Science Daily - February 16, 2015
Medical researchers are breaking sound barriers for children born without a hearing nerve. Hearing loss manifests in various forms, most of which can be partially restored through hearing aids and cochlear implants. Those devices cannot help a small population of individuals who do not have a cochlear, or hearing, nerve -- these people are unable to perceive sound, no matter how loud, outside of feeling vibration. The ABI is considered revolutionary because it stimulates neurons directly at the human brainstem, bypassing the inner ear entirely.

Study shows human ear impacted by low frequency noises   PhysOrg - October 1, 2014
A new study by a team of researchers in Germany has resulted in findings that suggest the human ear is more impacted by low frequency sounds than has been previously thought. Humans can hear sounds in the range 20 and 20,000 Hz - sounds above and below that range enter the ear but cannot be heard. In recent years some people, inside and outside the science community, have begun to wonder if sounds that fall below that range might be having an impact on us that we don't know about. Some have suggested, for example, that low noises emitted by wind-farms cause a wide variety of problems from sleeplessness to headaches. Others have suggested jet engines, office equipment or air-conditioning units might be causing problems.

Stop and listen: Study shows how movement affects hearing   PhysOrg - August 28, 2014
When we want to listen carefully to someone, the first thing we do is stop talking. The second thing we do is stop moving altogether. This strategy helps us hear better by preventing unwanted sounds generated by our own movements. This interplay between movement and hearing also has a counterpart deep in the brain. Indeed, indirect evidence has long suggested that the brain's motor cortex, which controls movement, somehow influences the auditory cortex, which gives rise to our conscious perception of sound.

A new model explains why we perceive sounds when they are conducted through the skull   PhysOrg - June 27, 2014
The ear is an important organ that allows us to perceive the world around us. However, very few of us are aware that not only the ear cup but also our skull bone can receive and conduct sounds Tatjana Tchumatchenko from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt and Tobias Reichenbach from Imperial College London have now developed a new model explaining how the vibrations of the surrounding bone and the basilar membrane are coupled These new results can be important for the development of new headphones and hearing devices.