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Humans Capable of Ultrasound Hearing, Study Reveals

Did you know that people have the ability to hear sounds despite being underwater? Apparently, researchers from the U.S. Navy say so. According to them, we have the ability to hear higher-pitched sounds through the bones in our ears. While we can catch sounds from 20 to 20,000 hertz on land, we can hear up to 200,000 hertz underwater.


On land, we acquire sound waves through air conduction. These waves travel through our ear canal and into the ear drum, causing vibration in the ossicles – one of the tiniest bones in the body that is found in our middle ear.


“Human hearing is magnificent,” Bill Martin says. “The eardrum only has to move less than the diameter of a hydrogen atom for us to perceive sound.” Mr. Martin is a hearing scientist from Oregon Hearing Research Center.


Below water, we don’t catch sounds as we do on land. Instead of hearing through normal channels, we use the sound vibrations of our ear bones.


“By using bone conduction, the human ear can actually receive sounds at frequencies way higher than most people would have expected,” Mr. Martin explained.


The research was conducted at the Naval Submarine Medical Research Lab in Connecticut. The study’s lead investigator and senior researcher Michael Qin says, “What made this study very interesting was that in the underwater case, divers could hear frequencies beyond 20 kilohertz (20,000 hertz) and into the range traditionally called ultrasound, which is outside what was thought to be the range of human hearing.”


Though scientists are not yet sure what to do with these findings, they hope that they can be used in developing new hearing aids.




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