Will We be Seeing Superhuman Hearing?
Technology Articles 5/18/11
By: Chris Capps
Scientists studying the phenomenon of superhuman hearing have discovered that the old trick of hearing better underwater may have some merit - and by developing a tool to make it work even better, they're suggesting we may be able to hear far beyond our normal range through one simple technique. What is that technique, and just how much better could we hear? Both answers may surprise you.
It's no secret that we can hear sounds outside of our normal range while underwater, but why do our ears seem to pick up things so much more easily under such counter-intuitive circumstances? The answer is the more solid water which carries the vibrations more efficiently. Unlike air, which often has a difficult time struggling with the sounds involved, water actually conducts the sound efficiently. Of course the only thing that conducts sound more efficiently than water is something more solid like rock. And it's not just those two that can give a person supernatural hearing. Many things, in fact, can result in superhuman hearing - but the most profound discovery made yet was discovered from the Naval Medical Research Laboratory by Michael Qin, a scientist studying the effects of different vibrations on the human ear. Qin suggested that by vibrating a bone within the ear we can actually improve the quality of our hearing profoundly.
When this bone within the ear vibrates it sets up a sort of chaos through which certain sounds - normally out of the range of the human ear - can escape. After extensive testing, Qin is convinced that within a short period we could actually develop new techniques to give humans super hearing.
And if you're not sure about the idea of humans actually becoming superhumans, then just remember the stories of the cybernetic enhancements people have already opted to have such as the Eyeborg project
It's no coincidence that the navy is exploring this method. As submarines become an increasingly important addition to navies around the world, listening and sonar will see increased use as well. And with the deep hum of the sea a few individuals at listening outposts may be able to interpret new sounds that would have been completely beyond their range of hearing. But there's potential for use on dry land as well. As the hearing of people continues to improve we have the very real possibility of having individuals who wish to change their bodies permanently to be more aware of a wider range of sound. And perhaps as these listening techniques and devices become more common there will be a push among musical advocates to use it more widely. Just as the sighting of a new primary color would be a core focus of artists around the world, a new sound outside the normal range of human sight may be enough to start another artistic revolution while attempting to utilize it. A new range of sound means more people will be able to express themselves in new and exciting ways. Of course some of the definition of this music may be lost as the vibration of the bones behind the ear drum may have unpredicted results. We will just have to wait and see - or hear.
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