Cocktail Party Effect

If you find yourself immersed in a crowd of people all talking at once why is it that, if someone mentions your name, you can immediately focus on a person’s voice and suppress the ambient soundfield? Studies report that the noise suppression can be upwards of 15dB. That means we have the ability to perceive such sound three to four times louder than the noise of the crowd. You can learn more about the Cocktail Party Effect here. Speculation is that binaural hearing supports spatial discrimination.

I know that monaural hearing, on the other hand, is remarkably distressing.

Last week, I noticed that my hearing on my left ear was off. And when I woke up the following morning, my ear was plugged. I’ve had this happen before. Time for the earwax remover. Only this time the earwax remover did not work.

For a couple of days, which seemed like forever, I was trapped in a world of rushing and whistling sounds in my left ear. Unable to hear. Mortified.

I could not sleep. I lost my appetite. I was a prisoner in my head. Unable to hear and understand other people. I went into the studio to play guitar and I could not hear the tone that I had spent years to create. The sound was lost on me. I have several recording projects starting up in the next few weeks. How could I engineer sessions with such horribly distorted hearing? I was in a state of shock.

The thought of losing my ability to perceive sound caused me a great deal of fear.

My daughter mentioned that she had encountered something similar and her doctor had directed her to some over the counter medication. Given my crisis happened over Christmas, and my general reluctance to seek medical aid, I bought the medication. My hearing came back within a day.

What joy.

2 replies
  1. Matt
    Matt says:

    Wow Richard, that’s frightening stuff. Losing my hearing is one of my greatest fears.

    I don’t think I’ve incurred a worrysome amount of hearing loss so far, but I’m going to a specialist soon as a preventative measure.

  2. Richard Cleaver
    Richard Cleaver says:

    I do test my hearing on a fairly regular basis so I am able to refer back to prior listening tests. I have great hearing from about 30Hz to around 14kHz. Past 16kHz and my ears are unable to perceive those frequencies. Which, sad to say, is normal for adults.

    I was in quite the state of panic over this little episode. Thank goodness it was not permanent.


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