A few weeks ago, we wrote a blog post about how the human ear works, and that inspired me to dive deeper into the section about the brain; specifically, psychoacoustics. The study of psychoacoustics, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a branch of science dealing with the perception of sound, and the sensations produced by sounds.” Essentially, psychoacoustics is how your brain perceives sound, and if used correctly, it can be an incredibly powerful tool in a sound designer’s arsenal.
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Sound is an essential part of all of our lives. It allows us to communicate with others via speech, it helps us to sense imminent danger, and it affords us the enjoyment and entertainment of music. But, how does sound make its way from vibrations in the air to our own auditory perception which we can easily identify and translate? Our bodies are miracles of science, and the answer to that question is fascinating.
The study of the interaction between how our ears and brain respond to sound is called psychoacoustics or sound perception. As audience members, we can perceive a sound as being a pleasing experience or not and anywhere in between. But, this perception isn't formed merely by using our ears. The connections between our ears, brain, and nervous system let us feel the effects of sound with our entire body. This concept of physically hearing and psychologically perceiving sound helps to connect us to the television show, movie, or video game we might be enjoying.