Different Brains, Different Ears

February 6, 2010

When sound hits the ear canal and vibrates the eardrum and the inner ear, a complex combination of bio-electrical impulses are sent to the brain where sound must then be interpreted. Sound is always open to interpretation. To say anything more distinct and certain about how one might react to a sound or collection of sounds entering the transducer that is the inner, middle, and outer ear, would be to begin making assumptions. If we zoom out as far as we can to make the safest of assumptions and still be guilty of them, we can say that we all know what rainfall sounds like, what thunder sounds like, or what the ocean sounds like. Although most of that may be true, you still cannot say with certainty anyone’s interpretation of these sounds but your own. I am making a bigger assumption right now by not considering that people may not have their hearing and therefore excluding all deaf and hearing impaired people. If I can say with certainty that I know what rainfall sounds like, and another person says the same, we can both agree that in our minds we each have a distinctly different concept of that sound that overlaps in a common area where we both share a similar memory of experience. But maybe my memory is the sound of rain on concrete and asphalt, or hitting a wood-shingled roof, or how it sounds from the inside of a car, while another person’s memory is that of rain hitting a tin roof, falling on bare earth, tree leaves and grass, echoing through a forest instead of off the sides of buildings. These are minor differences if our focus is the rainfall itself, but make all the difference if we are concerned with the way the rain falls, what it hits, and basically the reason that we hear it.

When sounds enter our ears, it is up to us where we have our focus while at the same time involuntarily drawing on past experiences to identify first where our choices of focus are. These are examples of not only why a silent yoga class can be a more focused yoga class, but also examples of how a properly constructed introduction of sound can benefit any experience, compliment it, or take it to a level previously unforeseen.

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