Aural Diversity

The assumption that we all possess a "standard" pair of ears underpins most listening scenarios. In fact, everybody hears differently! Get started to learn more.

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Get Started


Whose ears?

Our world is built on an assumption that everybody has the ears of a healthy 18–25 year old, but each individual’s ears are uniquely shaped. Most people only experience “normal” hearing for relatively brief periods.

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How is aural perception diverse?

  • We all experience varying amounts of hearing loss as we age - the technical term for this is presbycusis.

  • Even on shorter timescales than a lifetime, something as simple as a cold can affect the way we hear.

  • Each individual's ears have different shapes, sizes, and positions.

  • In fact, our ears are as unique as our fingerprints, and can even be used in identification.

Hearing is the sense that ages the least gracefully.

Age-related hearing loss can be accelerated from repeated exposure to loud music and noise (e.g., live concerts but also in-ear headphones or in-car audio systems): at the age of 40 you can have the ears of a 90 year old!

Hearing loss is common

The WHO projects that by 2050, nearly 2.5 billion will have some degree of hearing loss, and at least 700 million will require hearing rehabilitation. In the UK alone, hearing loss affects 12 million people.

What does hearing loss sound like?

Researchers from the Centre for Digital Music in London and the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast have developed an award-winning, real-time hearing loss simulator, for use in audio production. Watch this short video to hear the world as it really sounds to someone with hearing loss.

Good hearing matters.

Hearing loss can severely impact the daily life of an individual, causing both functional and emotional difficulties and affecting their overall quality of life. However, better awareness of hearing loss - and exactly how common it is - can mitigate these effects.

Not everyone hears.

Not hearing doesn't necessarily mean loss. Many individuals are born deaf - their sensory experience is rich and varied, it just doesn't include hearing.

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Sign Language Deprivation

Deaf individuals are just as cognitively normal as hearing ones, but a lack of support for sign languages often means they can be socially isolated. The Academy Award winning short film The Silent Child shows what a challenge these misconceptions can be - watch the short trailer.

Musicians often have a unique relationship to hearing and listening. How would you describe your relationship to music?


Professional musicians are almost four times more likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss than the general public, and 57% more likely to have tinnitus – a ringing or buzzing in the ears that is not caused by sounds coming from the outside world.

What does tinnitus sound like?

About 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives. Tinnitus is more common in people with hearing conditions, but it can also be found in people with normal hearing. Listen to members of the British Tinnitus Association describing what their tinnitus sounds like.

What do you think about aural diversity?

Aural Diversity

We hope you enjoyed learning more about aural diversity!

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