People Hear with Their Skin, As Well As Their Ears

According to a new study published in Nature, our skin helps us decipher the sounds we hear with our ears. Blindfolded volunteers listened to the "pa", "ta", "da", and "ba" sounds. Unknown to the participant, a puff of air, softer than would be felt in normal conversation, accompanied some of the sounds. Sometimes the puff of air accompanied the appropriate sounds, at other times not.
The researchers found that if there was no air puff, participants misheard "pa" for "ba" and "ta" for "da" 30 to 40 percent of the time. The accuracy improved 10 to 20 percent when an air puff over the hand or neck accompanied "pa" and "ta." No improvement occurred, however, if an air puff was sent through the tube in the ear, suggesting that the participants were not simply hearing the airflow.

The opposite effect was observed when the participants received an air puff with the inappropriate sounds— "ba" and "da." While subjects correctly identified these sounds in about 80 percent of cases when played without the release of air, the accuracy decreased by about 10 percent if the sounds were accompanied by puffs of air.

Most of the volunteers were not consciously aware of the puffs of air. Link

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Ah, actually, misread the experiment. But still, we don't "hear" with our skin. Note that the participants were blindfolded. You could argue that we hear with our eyes too if you're going to say that we hear with our skin.
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I would argue that mistaking [pa] for [ba] has nothing to do with feeling the puff of air (we phoneticians call this aspiration) and more to do with the fact that unaspirated p before a vowel really does sound to our English-speaking ears more like [ba]. In some languages, there is contrast between aspirated and unaspirated p, and i'm sure speakers of these languages would be able to tell the difference. But in English, p by itself (i.e. not coarticulated with a fricative such as s, as in "spit") is always aspirated before a vowel.
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Evelyn Glennie has been saying the same thing for years. There's a fascinating article about it on her website.

For those that don't know, Evelyn is one of the world's top percussionists. She has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12, and learnt how to play percussion by feeling the vibrations. To her, hearing sounds and feeling vibrations are part of the same thing.
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