Introducing: Ear Theory
In none of these conditions is the appropriate move “Turn It Down”. It might make some things softer, but the exciting parts of the movie won’t be as good, and the entire movie will sound like it is being played though a tin can. The high pitch and low pitch sounds will be gone, and surprisingly, that will make it harder to understand the dialogue. Oops!
The reason this happens is because human hearing is very sophisticated. The system needs to hear soft sounds like a mosquito, all while hearing many different things at the same time, and knowing the direction that each of the sounds are coming from.
At the same time, the hearing system needs to protect itself if it hears things too loud.
And perhaps most importantly, it needs to understand what people are saying.
All these things combined is called a dynamically adjustable system (‘elastic’ might be another science term).
In this case, the human hearing system favors the center tones and a nice comfortable level, a speaking level with speaking tones. It pays less attention to the other areas, and it takes more energy to break through.
This characteristic is part of the phenomena called “Loudness”. If you study sound, one of the first things you learn is that everything has a relative – not a firm – relationship to something else, and this relationship changes all the time. There will be anther more technical article following this one, so write in with questions and comments.