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I know about the hair cells in our Cochlea and it is the movement of the fluid that makes them vibrate. And it is this that activates the transmission of electrical signals to the brain that become sound.

But I've heard that hair cells are each built to detect specific pitches of sound. And if they don't get that particular pitch then they don't transmit. So as I understand it, we have cells that each respond to one particular pitch and nothing else. Since we have many that each respond to a different pitch, this is what gives us a wide spectrum of hearing.

What I've been wondering is this, if each hair cell responds to one particular pitch, what happens if we try to hear a sound that is in between two hair cells?

Imagine a hair cell that only responds to 1 Hz (and based on my understanding they do) And next to it a cell that responds to a sound at 2 Hz. What happens if there is a sound that is 1.5 Hz? Can we not hear that sound because it exists in the gap between our hair cells? Or can hair cells cover a wide range so they overlap and cover the gap?

As our ability to hear sound quantised or continuous?

I know that there are sounds so low or high they are beyond our range of hearing but what about within our range of hearing? If someone played a sound that was right in between two hair cells could we not hear it? Is there a finite number of different sounds that we can hear within our hearing range?

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  • $\begingroup$ Good question. I think clearly the range of the hair cells do overlap, because if I listen to a tone that slowly changes in pitch, such as slowly tuning a guitar or piano string I don't notice gaps where the sound goes away and comes back as I tune the string. Although it would be interesting to know exactly how much they do overlap. $\endgroup$ – Karl Jun 23 at 17:14

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