Maybe. According to a new study
from researchers at Binghamton University in New York, early humans could hear better than both chimpanzees and modern humans at certain frequencies.
But how do you find out how people who lived 1 to 3 million years ago could hear?
Luckily, detailed fossils of early human skulls give clues as to how early humans used their ears. Using computer imaging, researchers studied the anatomy of the outer and middle ear of these humans, who long ago lived in South Africa. Compared with chimpanzees, these fossils showed shorter and wider external auditory canals, smaller tympanic membranes, and a lower malleus/incus lever ratio.
To put it simply, early humans didn’t hear in the same way as we do.
Researchers reconstructed the hearing capabilities of these early humans by using virtual reconstructions of fossilized remains. They then used this information to predict how these ancient humans would hear. The results? Better hearing than chimpanzees – and different hearing than humans have today.
Early humans had heightened sensitivities to frequencies between 1.5 and 3.5 kHZ. In layman’s terms, that’s where sounds like rustling leaves, vacuum cleaners, telephones, and hard consonants like “P”, “H” , “G”, “CH”, and “SH” fall when it comes to the human hearing range. But they didn’t totally topple modern humans when it comes to hearing. Modern humans can hear significantly better in upper frequencies.