Tinnitus is defined as is the hearing of sound when no external sound is present.
The way our ears are put together and how they function is pretty amazing. They take vibrations and turn them into understandable words and recognizable sound patterns. But they have their oddities, as well, especially where hearing loss and tinnitus (phantom ringing in the ears) are concerned. The following are six strange and unusual hearing-related facts.
1. You hear with hair.
Hair cells (stereocilia) to be exact. Inside the cochlea of your ear are hair cells that serve as the sensory conductors of sound to your brain. The more of these cells you lose due to noise or other damage, the less you’re able to hear. And if they’re destroyed, you lose your hearing entirely — and since they can’t regenerate, that loss is permanent.
2. You never stop listening.
Your ears don’t stop hearing even when you’re asleep. Instead, your brain just ignores the incoming sounds. Some brains are better at this than others — hence a “light” sleeper might startle awake at every household creak and groan, while a “heavy” sleeper can blissfully ignore thunderstorms and barking dogs.
3. Hearing music when none is around.
This form of auditory hallucination is also known as Musical Ear Syndrome or sometimes musical tinnitus, and it’s a phenomenon that has nothing to do with schizophrenia or other psychological disorder. People with MES typically already have hearing loss. They complain of hearing everything from random notes to complete melodies, and think the songs are coming from a specific direction.
4. Your recorded voice sounds wrong.
Have you ever cringed when listening to a recording of your own speaking voice? You’re not alone. Most people find the sound of their recorded voice odd at best and hateful in the extreme. This is because of how our ears listen to sound coming from our throats versus from an external source. Vibrations from your vocal cords are partially transmitted by the bones in your neck and head into your inner ear for processing, meaning you actually hear your voice coming from outside and inside your head at the same time. Only you hear your voice this way and so you think that’s how you sound to everyone. But actually, your recorded voice is closer to how you really sound.
5. Not every living creature uses ears to hear.
You might assume creatures without ears are unable to hear, but in most cases you’d be wrong. For example, male mosquitoes use thousands of tiny hairs that grow along their antennae to hear. Fish use changes in pressure along a lateral line of hair cells, similar to what we have in our ears, just below their skin surface and internal ear components. Reptiles like newts and snakes use their jawbones, while a type of tiny frog called a Gardiner’s frog, which doesn’t have an eardrum or middle ear, uses its mouth cavity and tissue to transmit sound directly into their inner ears.
6. Women hear differently than men.
Studies have shown that men only use one side of their brain to listen (the left) while women use both. There’s also some evidence that women are “wired” to hear higher-pitched sounds better than men, and tend to lose their hearing later than their male counterparts. And while there are some indications that female voices are easier to understand — likely due to the average woman pronouncing her vowels more distinctly than the average man — the idea that women’s voices are simply easier to hear due to their higher pitch is untrue.