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If sounds are a wave, so each sound is like a pebble causing persistent ripples in a pond, why do we still hear sounds clearly when there are multiple sounds.

I ask this as I am sitting in a busy office on the 4th floor in a busy location, and a police car just went by in the street with it's siren on, yet I can hear it clearly. Why aren't the other sounds affecting/distorting the sirens sound?

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    $\begingroup$ The ripple analogy is interesting because if you have several wave sources in a pond, they overlap but are still traceable. Our brains don't process sight and sound the same way so it would be hard to watch a busy pond and pinpoint every wave source, but the information is there. Likewise with sound waves, the individual waves interfere in linear ways (within reason) so our brains can process the information and determine different sounds from different sources. $\endgroup$ – Asher Jul 11 '17 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ Because the various sound waves combine in a (mostly) linear fashion, so they pass through each other without permanently changing each other. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superposition_principle $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Jul 11 '17 at 15:59
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They do get disorted, but your bain is powerful enough to separate and distinguish different sources using "tricks" like your knowledge of the world or the differences in time of when the sound arrived to your ears.

If you take an audio recording of your environment and try to visualize it in a computer you can clearly see that all sounds are overlapping, it is our brain the one doing the trick.

By the way, there´s a youtube video of Feynman explaining the same phenomena but talking about the light that we see. Yoy may ask why isn't light or color disorted? The video is called the nature of nature.

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That's because perhaps the siren was louder than all other sounds. Our brain has the capability to distinguish between sounds of different pitch, quality and loudness, and even in several sounds of different kinds, we may be able to make out a particular sound from others if we concentrate, provided that the sound is loud enough.

You should be aware of the fact that sound is a longitudinal wave. As a result, it passes through media by successive contractions and rarefactions, dissipating some energy as it moves. All such waves are travelling together. These waves may suffer constructive or destructive interference, and thus, many sounds are cut off and do not reach your ear. You get to hear all the ones which survive. It is natural for our brain to concentrate on those sounds which are loud and clear. The loud sound of the siren has much more intensity, and hence, it survives to your ears.

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