Range of hearing

Published 16 Feb 2017

The ear plays as much importance as any body part. It basically functions for our hearing. The ear aids our body to pick up sounds, waves and vibrations. And, from the sounds that we hear, we can form sensations and perceptions. Human’s hearing has a limitation though; this is what you call range. A healthy person has a hearing range of 20 to 20, 000 hertz. (D’Ambrose, 2003) Within this range, we are able to form sensations and consequently, perceptions. The only difference is that, we are only able to form such at different degrees of range. There had been many studies that were conducted to see the relation of human hearing range in building our sensations and perceptions.

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In psychology, sensation and perception are different from one another although they are intimately related. Sensation is the process of simply sensing the environment through our senses and from these sensations, the information that we have gathered is now sent to our brains in raw form wherein from the brain, only then that perception take its role. (allpsych.com, 2004) From the stated range of 20 to 2000 hertz, we hear varying sounds from a whistle to the buzz of an airplane. The sounds that we hear are firstly received by our ear via the pinna which then leads the captured sound inside through the external auditory meatus. After that, it now enters the eardrum which vibrates through the ossicles, malleus, incus, stirrup and lastly, to the cochlea. It is the cochlea that converts these vibrations into electrical impulses that are transmitted in the brain for processing. (entnet.org, 2007) This hearing mechanism is the reason that whenever we hear a whistle or a jet, we have a connotation that someone might be singing or a jet is taking off respectively.

In a study conducted by Daniel J. Levitin, he found out that some popular songs have a larger proportion of people than previously documented have absolute memory for musical pitch. The study also used the theory of Absolute Pitch wherein majority of the subjects that were involved claimed that they do not have the ability to label pitches but still, they exhibited a pitch memory. This only implies that this ability is free from pitch labeling. (Levitin, 1996)

Also, it is in the normal range of humans that we are able to form our speech and speech production. Whenever we hear someone talking, our ears automatically pick the sound that we hear and translate it into neural responses in the brain. And, from our brain, we are able to construct our speech and word bank. Through hearing, humans are able to produce and develop their sense of speech. This is more manifested in speech classes and in speech therapies. In speech classes and speech therapies, it helps us to improve and correct our sense of speeches.

In a more practical application, if we go to a local jazz bar, we expect that we should hear a mellow sound—a sound that is “good” to the ears. And, from those expectations and facts, ultimately, our brains perceive that sound as to be soothing and a relaxed atmosphere. This example shows that really human hearing range has a desired level. Now, if we decided to go to a rock concert which has a louder atmosphere, our senses tells us that we should expect a lot of people would be singing and jumping, we expect that there will be more actions going on. A normal adult can only tolerate from 12 to 14 kilohertz.(D’Ambrose, 2003) But, it does not mean that we cannot hear sounds beyond this range. We can still tolerate sounds beyond this frequency but the catch is, it should not be done often for it will lead to hearing impairment. The lowest frequency that human ear can hear is the sound of a heartbeat. This only shows that from the lowest point of the frequency, our ears tolerate it. Over time, it only adjusts to the sounds that it hears and from those sounds, it now collects its perceptions regarding certain objects, events or people.

However, there are levels of sounds that the ear favors and sounds that it dislikes. A sound that is too loud is not good for our ears and hence, it becomes a cause to lose our sense of hearing. If we usually do this, over time, our sense of hearing losses its ability to tolerate sounds and consequently, we become deaf. In conjunction with sensation and perception, if we lose our sense of hearing, our perception is also affected. Also, as humans grow older, our hearing range also gets worse. And, with the addition of the loss of other senses, our senses and perception also disintegrates. This only means to say that we should not abuse our ears and once in a while, it does not hurt to listen to smooth sounds.

Hearing and sensations and perceptions are interrelated. From the first moment that we heard our first sound until the day that we are able to hear different sounds, our ear is part of the whole body system that helps to develop our senses and perceptions. Every sound that we hear has its own memory that is stored in our mind because our brain stores it. And, whenever we hear a familiar sound, we just “withdraw” from our perception memory and relate it to the source of the sound. And, whenever we hear a new kind of sound, our ears immediately picks it up and makes a new perception or image for that sound. Hence, the ears play an important role in our image development. It is a continuous process of developing and forming of new perceptions. We associate different sounds to different images and perceptions.

There is a sound that is most tolerable for our ears; and there are also sounds that it dislikes. If we are often hear sounds that are too loud, it leads to hearing impairment and thus, our build up of perception remains as is. Thus, if we have hearing impairment, we do not gain any new memory or knowledge. But still, our other senses are working but since we have impairment in the whole system, do not expect that we will gain new perceptions and knowledge as fast as we used to way back when our whole system was at its peak.

The human psyche has its amazing ways of surprising us. Our memory, knowledge, senses, perceptions, etc. is not only done by just one part. It takes one whole system to make it work. And our sense of hearing is one of the most ignored parts. Often, we take it for granted and does not take care of it as any other part. What we fail to see is that, without it, we would not be able to add new memory or perceptions to our psyche because from the sounds that it hears, we are able to make and associate sounds to perceptions. The least that we can do is take care of it and do not expose it to sounds that are too harsh for it because apparently, it has also its limits and if we abuse it, it may take its toll at the end.


  1. Introduction to Sensation and Perception [Electronic Version]. R
  2. D’Ambrose, C. (2003). Frequency range of Human Hearing [Electronic Version]. Retrieved August 27, 2007
  3. How the Ear Works [Electronic Version]. Retrieved August 28, 2007
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