When you don’t have hearing problems, you don’t think about the different things that you are hearing. We take for granted that we hear voices, the wind blowing, the far-off sound of a siren, or music. People who suffer from hearing loss or impairment cannot hear all those things anymore. To get a better understanding of what people with hearing impairment loses, we want to explain the four main areas of function that is part of hearing.
1. Noises and Sounds
The first area of function involves the ability to hear noises and sounds. These include all everyday noises from the telephone ringing to a dog barking to the wind blowing. When your hearing is fine, you hear these things without needing to pay attention to it or tune in harder to do so.
2. Sound Direction
This function is very important for safety reasons. It involves the ability to hear and know which direction a warning sound is coming from. For example, can you hear where the ambulance is coming from? Can you determine which car alarm is going off? This function requires the same level of sensitivity and functionality from both ears.
3. Hearing Speech
Hearing speech is the fourth function. It has two parts. The first part is being able to hear isolated voices and recognize them as a child’s voice or a male voice, for example. The second part involves hearing and identifying voices even when there are other voices and noises present. You should be able to ignore the background noise and identify a specific speaker. This function also requires the same level of sensitivity and functionality from both ears.
4. Recognize Voices
This involves the ability to hear and identify individual voices. For people with hearing impairments, this may be almost impossible. What it basically entails, is being able to recognize a voice as your mother or your best friend or youngest child. Every voice has different qualities in terms of pitch, musicality, tone, clarity and this function involves the recognition of those unique features.
These are the main functions that are involved with hearing. When a person with hearing loss gets a hearing aid or cochlear implant, these functions are improved. It is not always possible to improve all of these functions and the success will depend on the severity of the impairment. Most hearing aid devices will at the very least be able to make sounds and noises appear louder so you can recognize them. When it gets to the more specific identification of voices and so on, hearing aids are not always effective.
You can read this document for more information about hearing impairment, specialists, and other interesting things regarding hearing. Also, have a look at our previous article about how the hearing process works.