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We’re all ears: the sense that’s always listening

Oct 28, 2019
As an audio branding company, we’re all ears when it comes to reviewing the latest audio technology, sound marketing campaigns and most influential music. However, whilst what sounds we’re listening to, the mediums through which we listen to them, and why we listen to the things we do is no doubt important, how we’re actually able to hear lies at the root of it all. To consider the power of sound, we need to consider the power of hearing as a sensory experience – and as it turns out, the story of sound and the narrative of audio branding really aren’t all too different.

The world has never been noisier. Through constant innovation and progression in technology, there’s more for us to listen to with increasingly more streaming platforms. And with the recent rise of voice-connected devices – like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home – we’re also being listened to more than ever before. Our ears have arguably never been more active, so in today’s society, the ear has taken on a whole new importance. In a collection of essays, entitled Beneath the Skin: Great Writers on the Body (2018), poet and academic Patrick McGuinness explores the significance of the organ in today’s society – a world that, as McGuinness reminds us, our ears have never stopped listening to.

Listening is like breathing – it’s a process you have no real control over, and never stop doing. As McGuinness beautifully describes, our ears are like “an entrance, a portal, a porch not just into our bodies, but into our brains”. Whether cause for alarm or fascination, McGuinness reminds us “the ear is always open”: “it has no bodily off-switch”, just like ourselves. In fact, it’s this quality that not only makes the ear a bewildering phenomenon, but differentiates it from its fellow sensor – the eye. Like McGuinness says, “we can shut our eyes, but our ears are more difficult to control” – so much so, that in today’s increasingly noisy world, “we look for ways of counteracting our ears’ unceasing activity”, whether that be through “sound-muffling earplugs” or “£300 noise-cancelling earphones”.
PHMG blog noise cancelling headphones
But it’s not that simple – “even when there’s nothing to hear, the ear will find something”, and even if we block our ears with our hands, “all that happens is that you hear yourself hearing”. Whether we like it or not, sound demands to be heard, and in a society of podcasts, Spotify and Alexa, it’s getting harder to decide what, and who, we want to listen to. Whilst the outside of our ears have become a walking advertisement for the latest audio technology, McGuinness reminds us that the inside of our ears mimic a device as old as time, and a device we can all use in our attempt to be heard – the story.

To McGuinness, the process by which we hear is “best described as the story of sound, or the journey a sound makes, because stories are journeys and, like the ear’s three connecting spaces – outer, middle and inner – stories have beginnings, middles and ends”. As we know, sound ‘travels’, and it seems that like a story, sound takes us on a journey, both anatomically and emotionally.
PHMG blog patrick mcguinness quote
So if our ears are the story-tellers of our narratives, what better way to capture our journey, than through sound? It doesn’t appear surprising that in a recent survey conducted by PHMG – in which we measured the reaction of 1,000 people to a number of audio clips – 67-percent of them believed music is a more memorable form of marketing than visuals. So, if there’s a story to tell, and you want to be heard, then rely on the power of the ear to take your listeners from beginning to end.