For a long time it was thought that we – or rather our brains – were unable to follow moving sounds. But it now appears that the opposite has been proven.
A car passes by, a mosquito, a talking person passes by: these are all moving sounds. There has been a lot of research on how well our eyes can follow moving pictures, but hardly any research on how well our ears can follow moving sounds. Strangely, research has been conducted to track the moving sound with our eyes. It turns out that people are really bad at that. But even if I look through the literature for hints that we can actually track the sounds (with any part of the body), there appears to be little evidence for this.
Mark Fan and Norway of Radboud University thought that was odd. He set up an experiment to clear it once and for all. People sat in a darkened room where they were unable to see anything while a robotic arm with a loudspeaker moved around them in random movements. They were asked to follow the sound with their heads. And yes, it went really well. So we can do just fine. Our brain has a mechanism for tracking the position and speed of sound.
Not only is this a great find, but it can also help people. Whether this knowledge can be used to improve hearing aids and implants is already being investigated. With a hearing aid that works properly, the ears work together to calculate the correct location. This is not the case with hearing aids. This is one of the things that will be looked at in the near future.
Read more about research here: What do I hear there? How can we hear the moving sound. You can find the paper here: Adaptive response behavior in pursuit of unexpected moving sounds.