Consider how rich life is. We hear a child laughing, a bird singing, a friend chatting, or a great song on the radio or TV.
Hearing empowers us and helps us lead our everyday lives. It enables us to socialize, work and communicate. It helps us to stay connected to the outside world and helps keep us safe by warning us of potential danger. A telephone ringing, a crying baby or the noise of a smoke detector are just a few examples of important signals that we need to be able to hear.
It is easy to take hearing for granted. Occasionally we might miss a few words, but in general we move around effortlessly in everyday life, talking to one another, chatting over the phone or listening to the TV, without paying it a second thought.
Not all people or living creatures hear the same. High pitched sounds seem to be the first to deteriorate with age in people. Bats use hearing as radar to gauge distance. Some creatures can hear sound inaudible to humans, particularly in the high pitch ranges.
Musical sounds are periodic and somewhat regular. They are pleasing to our ears and minds, and sound has been one of the greatest forms of expression since the beginning of time. Unpleasant sound is often described as noise. When looking at the waveform, a visual representation of sound, music has more patterns and gradual variances in volume, but noise is jagged and sporadic.
What is or is not auditory "noise" often depends on who is listening. Tapping a pencil on a desk may be rhythmic and musical to someone, but an irritating noise to another.
Listening is not quite the same as hearing. Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If we are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that our brain processes meaning from words and sentences.
Living with hearing loss is the lot of many, particularly elderly folk. When hearing loss occurs, a simple thing like following a conversation or hearing the doorbell or telephone can become a real issue. We may start to experience all sorts of emotions ? from worry to sadness and loneliness. We may also feel tired and irritable from having to concentrate just to hear what people are saying. Left unattended, hearing loss can ultimately lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
Those who wear hearing aid will relate to what I have to say about crowd noises. When I first began to use them I was astounded at the volume of noise in a crowded room where everyone is talking. It is almost overpowering. I felt I couldn’t even think. Yet most people who do not need hearing aids are not especially conscious of the noise level; yes, it can be noisy but we can still carry on with our own conversation and our ears or our brain blocks out about 80% of the background noise. Better hearing aids also have this facility of blocking out background noise, but the experience of hearing this noise in a crowded room or in a large crowd outside helped me to appreciate the wonders of our body’s mechanisms that automatically block out unnecessary or irritating noise. We are truly wonderfully made.
Rev. Alan Stuart Ex missionary to Korea, Retired Minister, UCA
(02) 8876 1870