Some understanding of the way in which we hear is essential to follow the discussion of different microphone techniques, the way they work, and the advantages and drawbacks of each one.


The human ear can detect sound waves with frequencies from about 20Hz to 20kHz.  At the ends of this range, the sensitivity is much reduced.  The high frequency limit reduces with age, even when the hearing is otherwise perfect.  Considerable exposure to very loud noise can cause permanent damage to the hearing.

Directional Hearing

We are able to detect the direction of sounds.  A number of mechanisms are used for this, but different mechanisms may be effective for different sounds or situations.

Our ears are on opposite sides of the head, baffled by the pinnae.  This gives the possibility of several ways of detecting the direction of a sound, each of which may be predominant under different circumstances.

Movement of the head while listening can reinforce all of these effects, increasing the amount of information available for the ear and brain to analyse.  Vision also reinforces the perception of direction.


The ear has no direct way of determining the distance of a sound source.  However, there are clues that can be used effectively. 

Again, vision can help resolve ambiguity or uncertainty in another sense.

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