This website uses cookies. Read more about our cookie/privacy policy.

Accept and Close

The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Hearing Research Group website: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/hearing
Twitter: @HearingShef

Sound is detected by extremely sensitive sensory receptors called hair cells that are located in the cochlea. The name 'hair cell' derives from the hair-like elements (stereocilia) that project from the cell’s apical surface. During sound stimulation, the stereocilia vibrate, initiating the conversion of sound into an electrical response. This initial electrical response is then relayed to the brain enabling us to hear different sounds.

The major challenges for Sheffield’s Hearing Research Group are to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the development, function and ageing of our auditory system. This is critical for our understanding of numerous different forms of hearing loss and deafness and for the development of gene-based therapies.

Researching hearing with zebrafish
Activity recommended for ages 10+

Watch the Hearing Research Group’s video on using zebrafish as an animal model to study deafness.

For more information about zebrafish biology how they are used in research check out the Whitfield Lab’s Zebrafish Senses presentation on Prezi.

How easily is our brain tricked?
Activity recommended for ages 10+

Watch these videos explaining some audio-visual illusions.

Shepard Tone:
A Shepard tone is a sound made out of multiple sine waves which create an auditory illusion.

Sine waves separated by an octave are layered on top of each other and progressively move up the scale. The higher pitch tones become quieter. The middle pitch tones stay loud. The bass pitch tones become progressively audible. As a result, you can at all times hear at least two tones rising in pitch, so that your brain is tricked into perceiving a constantly ascending tone!

Ascending Shepard tones were used by Hans Zimmer in the soundtrack of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk to create a feeling of building tension.

The McGurk Effect:
The McGurk effect is an example of the input of one sense (vision) influencing the input from another sense (hearing). This video demonstrates and explains this fascinating audio-visual illusion.

Experience simulations of different types of hearing loss
Activity recommended for ages 10+

Experience simulations of different types of hearing loss with these audio clips of popular music.

Phantom of the Opera:
This is how you normally hear "Overture" of the Phantom of the Opera

This is how you would hear it if you had the age-related hearing loss of a 50 year old

This is how you would hear it if you had the age-related hearing loss of an 80 year old

You’re Welcome:
This is how you normally hear ‘You're welcome’ from Moana

This is how you would hear it if you had the age-related hearing loss of a 60 year old

This is how you would hear it if you had the age-related hearing loss of an 80 year old

Bohemian Rhapsody:
This is how you normally hear ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen

This is how you would hear it if you had cochlear otosclerosis

How do we hear?
Activity recommended for ages 7+

How to build a hair cell
Activity recommended for ages 5+

Enjoy more fun activities!
Activity recommended for ages 5+

Download these files for more activities about ears:

COLOUR YOUR EAR (png) – print or colour in Paint
DRAW AND SPOT THE DIFFERENCES (png) – print or draw in Paint
NAME THE PARTS OF YOUR EAR (pdf) – print or fill in Adobe Acrobat Reader
CROSSWORD (pdf) – print or fill in Adobe Acrobat Reader
JOURNEY THROUGH THE EAR (pdf) – print and play the card game

Ask Professor Walter Marcotti and his Hearing Research Group colleagues a question about ears and hearing

Submit your question

The answers to your questions will be available here on Friday 5 June 2020.

Create your own online surveys with SmartSurvey.

You might also like...

The History of Ska

Hear the history of ska music summarised in two minutes in this insightful interview with Dave Campbell, founder of Sheffield-based ska and reggae 12-piece Jungle Lion. Interview by Diana Read for DINA TV.

PowerPlus Music Writing Advice

Music in the Round presents a series of films, sharing professionals' tips in writing and composition. Learn how to write beautiful piano chords, and how to write for instruments including the double bass and flute.

Make Your Home a Musical Instrument

Turn your house into a musical instrument using free software FoxDot, in a two-part workshop with artist and musician Lucy Cheesman.

Secret Postcard Show

Create a postcard-sized artwork for Cupola gallery's Secret Postcard Show. All pieces will go on display in an exhibition and sold to raise funds for the gallery's survival campaign, with the names of the artists a secret until the artwork is sold.