Speech and Hearing

Speech and Hearing

Speech and Hearing

Speech and Hearing

Excerpt

The atmosphere of sounds in which we live ministers so constantly to our knowledge and enjoyment of our surroundings that through long familiarity we have come to feel, if not contempt, at least indifference toward the marvelous mechanism through which it works. Hearing, we are inclined to consider as little a matter for concern as breathing; and so long as our own faculty remains unimpaired we feel little curiosity concerning the provisions of nature either for ourselves or for others. When we hear too faintly or indistinctly we know we need only trace the sound to its source to hear its perfect form, for that is the method we have used from childhood in investigating the sounds of our immediate neighborhood.

Now with one broad sweep the barriers of time and space are gone and all the world becomes our vocal neighborhood. No longer can we transport ourselves to the origin of a sound and thus become convinced that we are hearing it aright, for that origin may be thousands of miles away or may have vanished years before; and so we must establish a new method to measure the accuracy of the copy which reaches our ears. We must also find a clearer index to our satisfaction in it, for we are no longer concerned with the immutable provisions of nature but may approach at corresponding expense whatever perfection we may demand in our instruments of translation and reproduction. Thus the telephone and the phonograph should excite a keener interest in how we hear and in what measures our satisfaction in the speech and music which they provide.

Our ears are only machines to translate air waves into a form suited to stimulate the auditory nerve; and as machines . . .

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