For a long time, it was believed that we – or rather our brains – are unable to follow moving sounds. But now it seems to have been proven otherwise.
A passing car, a mosquito, a talking person: these are all moving sounds. There has been a great deal of research into the ability of our eyes to follow moving images, but hardly any research into the ability of our ears to follow moving sounds. Oddly enough, research has been done on tracking sounds in motion with our eyes. People are very bad at it. But even if you delve into the literature for clues that we can actually track sounds (no matter what part of the body), there seems to be little evidence to prove it.
Marc van Wanrooij of Radboud University found this strange. He set up an experiment to clear it up once and for all. The subjects were seated in a dark room where they could not see anything as a robot arm with a speaker moved around them in random motions. They were asked to follow the sound with their heads. And yes, it went very well. So we can do very well. Our brain has a mechanism to track the position and speed of a sound.
Not only is this a great find, it can help people as well. It is already being investigated whether this knowledge can be used to improve hearing aids and implants. With properly functioning hearing, the two ears work together to calculate the correct location. This is not yet the case with hearing aids. This is one of the things that will be looked at in the near future.
Learn more about the research here: What do I hear there? How can we hear the sound in motion. You can find the article here: Adaptive response behavior in search of unpredictable moving sounds.