The cocktail party effect (or cocktail party phenomenon) is the ability of a person to block out ambient noise during a conversation. Thus, the person is able to fully concentrate on the conversation.

Main points

  • Ambient sounds are perceived subconsciously despite the suppression. Hearing one's own name, for example, can ensure that the effect stops or does not occur.
  • Disturbing sound sources are suppressed by approximately 9 to 15 dB. As a result, the conversation you are concentrating on is perceived about two to three times louder.
  • In contrast to a microphone, the human ear does not require direct alignment with a sound source, but can also easily focus on sounds from the side. A movement of the head is not necessary.
  • However, the cocktail party effect only occurs when you can hear in both ears. People who are deaf or severely impaired in one ear perceive noise much more intensively.

It is not yet clear how human hearing and brain can perform this phenomenal filtering property.

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