Hearing Blog

An introduction to Directional Hearing

Published 03/09/2023
Last Updated 22/02/2024

If you’re out for a walk and hear a bird singing, you would instinctively turn your head in the direction that the sound is coming from. But how do we know?

Understanding Directional Hearing: How Our Brain and Ears Work in Tandem

Our brain and ears collaborate to grant us the valuable ability of directional hearing. This remarkable skill allows us to pinpoint the precise direction from which a sound originates in relation to our surroundings.

Exploring the Woods: A Lesson in Sound Localisation

Imagine walking in the woods. Even with your eyes shut, you can likely discern the direction of a chirping bird or trace its path as it takes flight. This ability stems from the collection of sound information by our two ears from distinct locations, ultimately processed and analysed by the brain to determine the sound's source.

The Key Factors in Sound Localisation

Ear Shape: The natural shape of the pinna, our outer ear, aids in the discrimination of sounds originating from different directions.

Brain Function: Our brain constantly interprets sound information, assessing its intensity, source, and distance. Through synthesising this data, it accurately identifies the direction of the sound source.

Overcoming Challenges of Hearing Loss

Localising sounds becomes challenging when hearing loss affects one or both ears, significantly impacting the brain's ability to perceive directional cues. Hearing with two ears, whether naturally or with the assistance of hearing aids, plays a crucial role in reinstating this vital directional hearing capacity.

Unlocking the Potential of Directional Hearing Aids

In instances where hearing loss impairs sound localisation, directional hearing aids emerge as a practical solution. Contrary to common belief, a single hearing aid rarely suffices. Wearing a pair enables the collection of sound from both sides, fostering what is known as binaural hearing. This greatly assists the brain in accurately discerning the sound's direction. It's important to note that any degree of hearing loss, even in one ear, can impact binaural hearing.

Enhanced Hearing in Noisy Environments

Consider a lively cocktail party conversation. Amidst the continuous chatter, sounds shift rapidly and unpredictably. With both ears effectively receiving information, either naturally or aided by hearing devices, the brain adeptly determines the sound's precise origin. Some advanced hearing aids even facilitate seamless communication between the ears, significantly improving the wearer's auditory experience, especially in noisy settings.