Hearing: Brings Your World to Life
The ability to hear is such an ingrained part of life, we often miss it entirely. It’s just there. 24/7. And so, many of us simply take our hearing health for granted. We’ve never experienced life without it.
Yet, talk to people who have experienced hearing loss – even mild hearing loss – and you quickly discover what hearing does for us on a daily basis, without us being aware of what’s going on in there. You don’t miss it until it’s gone. We can learn from those who no longer have nature’s gift of hearing, or from those who were never blessed with the ability to hear clearly.
These people overcome hurdles everyday about which most of us know nothing. By taking a closer look at hearing and its importance in life’s quality, one may understand how important treating hearing loss is.
Hearing and Connecting with Others.
We learn to speak by imitating the sounds we hear.
Even the most eloquent speaker starts small – with “Mama” and “Dada” and other simple words. Mothers and fathers teach their children to speak by speaking to them. The children hear the sounds and imitate them.
Soon, we develop a larger vocabulary, learning new words every day. As more time passes, we learn to “hear” between the lines. We recognize, not only words, but tone. Is the speaker being sarcastic or are the sentiments expressed genuine? “Nice job, Fred” can mean “you’ve done a good job, Fred,” or it can mean just the opposite – depending on the tone used by the speaker.
There’s nuance in speaking and our ears deliver the speakers sound waves to the hearing centers of the brain for processing. We develop a database of “sounds.” The dog says “Bow-wow,” the cow says “moo.” The ability to process sounds enables us to connect with others in numerous ways and on very different levels.
A conversation with a friend creates personal connectivity, evoking emotions of friendship, sympathy, connectivity – a sense of belonging, a basic human need. Conversely, listening to the evening news keeps us informed of the things happening in the world. The words spoken by the newscaster may also enlighten, engage or even anger us.
The ability to communicate – to hear, process sound and respond – makes life more engaging, interesting, fun and infuriating. Yes, there’s a direct link between your ability to hear and your ability to feel emotions. Without hearing, we’re often left out.
Just how important is this ability to communicate? Well, routinely, newborns undergo a hearing test at birth and if hearing loss is diagnosed, even newborns as young as two months can be fitted with hearing aids that enable them to learn speech.
Even more importantly, these youngsters will mainstream through school, learn algebra and become a contributing member of the society. And it all starts with the ability to hear.
Think about that the next time you expose your ears to five straight hours of tunes on your MP3 player. When ears are exposed to loud noise over a long period of time, the hearing mechanism is damaged. And your connectivity with others is at risk. How often do you say “What?” throughout the day?
Studies have shown untreated hearing loss can lead to isolation which often leads to depression, anxiety and disconnect from the rest of the world.
Life without the ability to engage others in conversation limits what we can accomplish, placing road blocks in the way of the full realization of our talents, personal strengths, our opinions and our ability to engage others on the job, at home and around town. In fact a study carried out by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) found that persons with untreated hearing loss earned less income per year – the hearing loss limiting their earning power.
The link between hearing and happiness is sometimes overlooked, even by family members, friends and health care providers.
Simple sounds such as music and sound of nature elicit emotions that are definitely missed when hearing loss exists.
You may not grasp the emotional impact of hearing loss because you hear well, but there is in fact a link between your emotional state and your ability to hear. Don’t believe it?
Try wearing ear plugs for a day at the office. Experience hearing loss on an experimental level to better appreciate the relationship between the act of hearing and happiness. The two are inexorably linked.
The ability to hear contributes to our understanding of where we are in space.
Speak from the podium and you pick up room tone, subtle shifts in audience interest and other extraneous cues to our place in space. Ears define where we are at the moment, whether in a crowded, noisy restaurant or taking a walk along the quiet path through the woods. Hearing the sounds around us allow us and our brain to understand where we are in respect our surrounding environment.
We hear echoes, sounds the bounce back to us that identify objects. It’s a form of echo-location – placing the self within the physical context of our surroundings. Without the ability to hear, we lose this ability to place ourselves. The result? Life loses dimensionality. We no longer live in a multi-dimensional world when we can’t define place ourselves into the context of our surroundings.
Hearing and safety go hand-in-hand.
Your ability to hear a warning bell or alarm protects you from danger. The ability to hear cars coming toward us or horns honking provides enough time to get out of the way. A shout from a friend or coworker of potential danger goes unheard and, suddenly, we’re confronted from an unheard danger. In fact, we often hear danger before we see it.
The ability to hear keeps us safe and protects us from harm every day. We just don’t recognize the role hearing plays in our safety because it’s an innate ability – and a blessing that identifies danger before it can harm us.
Quality of Life
Imagine life without music. Imagine life without the beautiful sounds of nature – the twittering birds, the babbling brook, the rumble of thunder in the distance. Hearing well is living life to the fullest.
A study released by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) in 1999 found that untreated hearing loss was associated with quality of life issues such as sadness, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and irritability - that have a negative impact on our overall well-being. Not surprisingly, the study also indicated that hearing loss affects both the individuals with the loss, as well as their families.
There’s beauty in the sounds that surround us if we only take the time to listen.
From the soft whisper of a grandchild to the ability to hear your manager at work, sounds add much to life’s quality. We can work longer, be productive, and enjoy the music that is woven into the fabric of daily life.
Sounds are all around us. We may hear them, but do we listen to them? Some of us do. Some don’t.
And how to make that choice when you choose to live with untreated hearing loss? You don’t, you make the choice to miss out on all the sounds in life that enrich our well being and the well being of those around us.
Choose to listen to the world around you. Choose to treat your hearing loss and discover what you’ve been missing. You’ll like what you hear.