People use their ears for all kinds of communication, but you can use your ears for more than you think. Learn how we use our sense of sound to find ourselves in space, as well as information on getting a hearing test for damaged ears.

The human ear is an amazing organ. It’s easy to ignore, but sound input is an incredibly useful tool for the human brain. If you close your eyes and listen, you can still absorb a surprising amount of information about your surroundings without visual input. The human ear can detect where noise is coming from and how far it has traveled due to a few simple characteristics of sound.

Why Writers Need a Second Pair of Eyes

The human body has two ears for one reason. Two ears on opposite sides of the head provide enough information to the brain to help it determine where the sound is relative to the body. Most sounds that a person detects are picked up by both ears. If the source is not directly in front of the body or directly behind it, the sound will be louder in one ear. For example, if a bird chirps on a person’s right side, the right ear will raise the trough high and clear, while the left ear will detect only a small sound. The brain compares the volumes of each sound and uses it to determine which direction the sound is coming from and how far away the source is.

When sound is emitted from a source, it travels in all possible directions. Sound most easily passes through gases and liquids, and all solid objects in its path will dampen vibrations. Vibration dampening reduces the volume and can mute features that make the sound easy to identify. For the brain, a muffled sound can mean that the source is behind something (a speaker system in another room).

Ears: Do Their Design, Size and Shape Matter?

As sound travels in different directions, it tends to bounce off flat surfaces. In fact, when your ears make noise, they often make several copies of that noise, some smaller and more distorted than others. Part of what makes your ears so adept at finding yourself in a room is due to this effect. Imagine screaming in your living room and screaming in an empty hall.

Because the body receives so much positional information from the ears, ear problems can cause health problems that seem unrelated to sound. People who complain of balance problems or feel disoriented often receive a hearing test as part of the test. The hearing test helps determine if one or both ears have permanent permanent damage. If one ear is more damaged than the other, a hearing test can help explain a feeling of disorientation. Damage to both ears can make sounds harder to detect and can make a person feel excluded from the world around them.

The body constantly collects information with its ears, so it is important to take care of them. Avoid exposure to loud noise; even very loud noises for short periods of time can cause damage. If you think you may have suffered damage to your ears, a hearing test can help assess how badly they are damaged and what can be done about them. However, you do not want to be completely in the dark when you close your eyes.