Monday, September 30, 2013

Are You Using Echolocation Without Knowing It?

Many people who are blind or visually impaired use echolocation without even knowing it. You may be better at if than you think, especially if your have been without vision for many years.

Often times I talk about echolocation as requiring the use of a mouth click or tongue click, however, the only thing that echolocation requires is some sort of sound. There are a myriad of sounds around us all the time, both acute sound events (like a click, pop, footstep, words, etc.) and ambient sounds, like wind or appliances. All of these sounds undergo many reflections bouncing off of all of the objects around us before making it to our ears. If you have been without vision for some time, you are no stranger to the subtleties of sounds. Many people claim to glean information about their surroundings by tapping their cane on the ground. This tapping sound is something one becomes very familiar with and can be a very effective sound for use with echolocation. Whether you can learn a little bit about your environment, (like what size room you are in) or a lot about your environment, (like what type of furniture is around you, or where a doorway is located) you are using some amount of echolocation.

If this is a strategy you use for mobility, you undoubtedly understand the benefits of this mode of perception. Now is the time to explore the fundamentals of echolocation even further to see how much you can improve this perception. The reason echolocation is taught using mouth clicks is simply because the sound emitted from your mouth is very close to your ears, which means that the sound is basically travelling in a straight line out from your head and directly back to your head. This helps to control the signal better and eliminate various sound reflections that may occur when the sound is emitted from other places, like your snapping fingers or the tip of your cane.

It's important to mention here that there are actually benefits to using a signal that originates a the tip of your cane or your hand, to the effect that it can enable you to see objects in your periphery if done properly. For more information on how you can implement the principles of echolocation in addition to the use of your cane, please take a look at the website ( and read about the book, Beginner's Guide to Echolocation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Research Helps Understand the Ability to Pinpoint Object Location Using Echolocation

This is a brief article, and more importantly a video documenting some of Dr. Daniel Rowan's research in the field of echolocation.  Rowan is a lecturer in the audiology department at the University of Southampton and has been working to try to create experiments designed to quantify the subtleties and understand the usage and effectiveness of echolocation for both blind and sighted individuals.

Here is a link to the video:

In the video link below they use an "anechoic chamber" to isolate sounds for experimental purposes.  A flat object is moved from side to side to test the ability of a subject to determine it's location.  This is a somewhat fundamental test, and I would say that since it is a large flat object that the test should be fairly easy for anyone who is familiar with the use of echolocation.

I've been in communication with Dr Rowan about his research and he is a very enthusiastic person with plans to continue his research with further studies to help better understand and quantify this skill.  Perhaps in the future he will publish some studies on the more subtle aspects of echolocation, such as the effectiveness of echolocation with varying levels of background noise, or the precision of edge-finding using different frequency signals, or the precision of subjects' ability to determine object construct.

Stay tuned for more exciting things in the field of echolocation! :)

Free 10-Minute Audio Lesson: Learn the Echolocation Click

Learn echolocation clicks with a free audio lesson
Learning how to click is one of the first steps to becoming an effective echoloator. This lesson provides clicking samples of a variety of different clicks and descriptions of when they might be most useful. This lesson has been used by O&M instructors all over the world.

Despite popular belief, it's easy to make your clicking quite subtle or unnoticeable even in quiet settings. There are many different clicks for different situations. I explain all of these in great detail and give examples of where, why and when they can and should be used.

Get your free lesson now:

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