Would you like to know what it’s like to be totally deaf? Try this experiment for a few moments. Obtain a pair of earplugs people use to drown out sound so they can sleep. Now put them on, pop down to your local shopping mall, and stroll through the crowds for a few moments.
Experience the world of total deafness for yourself. Now remove the earplugs and notice how loud and confusing the world is around you. But you’ll soon be okay as your hearing adjusts to the sounds around you.
We relate to life in terms of what we know. For what else do we have to compare it with? A church decided to understand the world of their deaf congregants better. The knowledge they gained helps us understand what it’s like when a truly deaf person hears for the first time.
The Main Difference Is the Nature of Language
The researchers based their work on the assumption fully-deaf people are only audio-impaired, as opposed to the historic assumption they are mentally incapable too. They discovered deaf people live a life as rich as the rest of us, with the only exception their language is visual.
So what would it be like for a deaf person to hear a familiar YouTube or TikTok video for the first time? How would they cope with the sounds flooding their senses? Would they welcome them with open arms? Or would they want to run and hide from a terrifying new world.
Let’s hear how a women born deaf responds the first time the nurse switches on her cochlear implants. ‘Hearing things for the first time is so, so emotional,’ she says. ‘From the ping of a light switch to running water. I can't stop crying.’
The Shades on Deafness in the Silent World
Deafness is a broad canvas in our daily living. It can come upon us in a variety of ways including as follows:
- Our generic characteristics we inherit affect the quality of our physical structure
- An accident or trauma damages this physical structure impairing its performance
- Exposure to frequent high volumes of sound degrade the physical structure
- Our physical hearing structure gradually degrades as we and our bodies age
The extent of deafness varies from very slight, through mild, moderate, severe, profound, and total hearing loss. This chart should help you determine the extent of your deterioration, and the right way to regain some of it.
A mildly deaf person may have no difficulty hearing a video, whereas a moderately deaf person may want to cup their ear. Whereas if your partner keeps turning up the volume to hear better, they have severe hearing loss in at least one ear. Here’s a practical example of a singer at different levels of hearing.
Shades of Solutions for Degrees of Hearing Loss
You need to understand how hearing works, if you are hard of hearing - or can’t hear at all - and came here looking for a solution. We’ll keep the science as simple as we can, using the example of a deaf person watching a hearing aid video on YouTube.
Sound enters our ears via the auditory canal leading from the pinna of the outer ear. The sound waves vibrate through the eardrum and enter the inner ear where sound processing occurs. This outputs via the auditory nerve to our thinking brain, where the sensation of hearing occurs. Hearing loss falls in two broad categories:
- The system is degraded and the quality of the signal is below normal
- The system has a stoppage somewhere. The signals cannot reach the brain.
Hearing aids may help a mildly / moderately / severely deaf person hear a video better. However, they cannot assist if the signals cannot reach the listening brain.
Option 1: Improving the Signal Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve the quality of the signal reaching the brain, by improving the situation at the front end. We say ‘improve’ because hearing aids have advantages, but they can never repair damaged hearing. All they can do is improve the input to the inner ear.
A plug in the outer area stops sound entering the ear canal. Instead, it passes through a hearing aid which electronically improves it. The enhanced sound then passes through a tube in the ear plug, and begins its journey down the ear canal on its way to the brain.
The improvement can be quite dramatic. Watch this video and see for yourself:
Option 2 Rerouting the Signal Using a Cochlear Implant
Cochlear implants bypass almost all the physical system, instead of helping it along as hearing aids do. However, the implants are considerably more expensive, and only indicated when hearing aids can’t help.
The outside component may look like a hearing but that’s where the similarity ends. That’s because the signal travels directly to the auditory nerve before heading for the hearing brain.
The benefits are dramatic, and can be quite emotional as this video shows. If you are hard of hearing or deaf, you really should investigate them carefully. Imagine how you would feel when a friend said ‘Wow, you may be deaf but you can hear the video even better than me, now you are wearing hearing aids!’