How We Hear

Understanding how we hear is crucial for understanding how hearing impairment occurs. Hearing is an incredibly complex and amazing sense which relies on a variety of mechanisms to function properly. The ear is able to transform moving air molecules into sounds by converting sound pressure to mechanical, then hydraulic, then electro-chemical energy, allowing us to experience a beautiful piece of music or a friend’s voice. For over 40 years, the professionals at Canary Hearing have been providing hearing testing and hearing care services for clients in Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore from our offices in Annapolis, Maryland and our patients know they can turn to us for exceptional service in a friendly and welcoming environment.

How We Hear

Although we have a good understanding of how sound moves through the ear, there are still many scientific mysteries about how the brain processes and translates these stimuli into what we hear. What we do know is that there is an important distinction to be made between “hearing” a sound and “understanding” what we hear.

There are two major components to understanding the words or sounds we hear:

Reception of sound
If you have difficulty hearing sounds that you should be hearing, this is an indication that you have issues with the reception of sound. A simple hearing test can determine if there is a problem with sound reception and hearing aids can help greatly by amplifying sounds you have trouble detecting.

Processing of sound
If your brain has difficulty with interpreting or processing what you hear then the issue is with processing of sound. A full hearing evaluation can determine if there is a problem with sound processing. Unfortunately, hearing aids cannot help with processing problems, only issues with reception.

When you have both good reception and good processing skills, only then can you reach understanding.

So why do processing and reception matter?
Simply put, hearing instruments can help you with the reception of sound, but they cannot help you process what you hear. Most people have a good understanding and simply have issues with the reception of sound so they benefit a great deal from amplification of sounds they would normally not hear. Some people have compromised sound processing and do not benefit as much from amplification, in which case hearing aids provide more limited benefit.

When you begin to notice trouble with your hearing, you need to understand what is causing the problem.

  • Is it just a reception problem (hearing loss)?
  • Is it an auditory processing problem?
  • Is it a combination of the two?

Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to have clear and realistic expectations about what kind of help is available. There is no substitute for a thorough consultation with someone you can trust.