auditory scene analysis The analysis of multiple sound sources into auditory perceptions of the individual sources using cues such as spatial separation, temporal modulations, spectral profiles, harmo-nicty and temporal regularity, and common onsets and offsets.

central auditory nervous system The anatomical parts of the brain stem and cortex devoted to auditory processing.

frequency The frequency of a periodic quantity, in which time is the independent variable. Frequency is the number of periods occurring in unit time. Unless otherwise specified, the unit is hertz.

hearing Determining the sources of sound.

intensity The magnitude of sound measured in a specified direction at a point is the average rate of sound energy transmitted in the specified direction through a unit area normal to this direction at the point considered.

loudness Subjective attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds may be ordered on a scale extending from soft to loud.

masking The process by which the threshold of audibility for one sound (signal) is raised by the presence of another (masking) sound.

peripheral auditory system The outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, and auditory nerve bundle.

pitch Subjective attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which sounds may be ordered on a scale extending from low to high.

spatial hearing The ability to locate a source of sound in three-dimensional space based on only acoustic cues.

Hearing, like all of our senses, allows us to determine objects in our world. Objects can vibrate, producing sound, and our sensitivity to that sound allows us to know something about the sound-producing sources. Often, many sources produce sound at the same time, and we parse this complex auditory scene into perceptions of its constituent sound sources. The sounds from these many sources are combined into one complex sound field. When the auditory system receives this complex sound field, the auditory periphery provides a neural code for the physical variables of the sound field: intensity, frequency, and time. This neural code is further processed by the central nervous system providing the neural substrates for the perceptions of the individual sound sources that originally generated the sound field. This article reviews the physics of the three physical variables of sound (intensity, frequency, and time); describes the peripheral auditory system and perceptual data related to processing intensity, frequency, and time; describes the central auditory system; and discusses the variables that influence sound source determination.

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