Two women enjoying themselves in nature and having a conversation, while being able to understand each other

Understanding why hearing is important

Why is hearing important?

There are many reasons why hearing is important for us throughout our lives:

  • hearing is the main sense we use for communicating and connecting with other people
  • our hearing lets us communicate with others in a way that is quick and full of details
  • hearing gives us rich information about what is happening around us and alerts us to danger
  • hearing helps us relax, such as by listening to music or enjoying the sounds of nature.

How hearing is a unique sense

  • Keeping your brain healthy

    Researchers are constantly increasing our knowledge of why hearing is important. We now know that hearing plays a vital part in brain health because it helps people to remain active and engaged. By keeping the brain active, hearing has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

  • Your sense of hearing is always active, even when we are sleeping. The brain just ignores most incoming sounds

    Always on and alert

    Our hearing never turns off! Our sense of hearing is always active, even when we’re asleep. That’s why we can be woken up by an alarm or even a gentle voice. In this way, it is a very useful sense for warning us about danger. This highlights the importance of hearing to our ancient ancestors.

  • Connecting us deeply

    Because hearing is critical for connecting with others, some people believe hearing is our most important sense. Perhaps the most moving words about why hearing is important are a quote from the deaf and blind activist and educator Helen Keller. She famously said: “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

How does hearing keep you healthy?

The importance of hearing to our health is fundamental. It is one of our most critical senses for connecting to people and interacting with the world. Because of this, it helps us socialize with our loved ones and friends. Hearing also plays an important role in meeting new people and pursuing healthy activities and hobbies – ones that keep us physically fit and socially active.

In this way, the importance of hearing is considerable, because it is the foundation of many different aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Even milder forms of hearing loss can significantly affect people’s daily lives if they are left untreated. By ensuring we can hear well, we are more socially active, which reduces social isolation and the risk of depression. Moreover, hearing keeps our brains active, which has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia.

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How does the sense of hearing work?

Sound is funneled by the outer ear to the eardrum, which moves the small bones in the middle ear against the snail-shaped cochlea.

Our hearing works because of a complex system. This begins at the visible part of the ears, which pick up the sounds around us and funnel them inwards. The sound waves hit the eardrum, which vibrates and then mechanically transfers the sound energy through the small bones in the middle ear (the ossicles), to the cochlea. Here, the mechanical vibrations are translated into electrical nerve signals and then transmitted to the brain.

This is how we can recognize and understand sounds like speech, music and noise. For this process to happen properly, every part of this sensory chain is important and must be working properly.

Anatomy of the ear

The human ear has three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

  • The visible part of the external ear collects sound and directs it into the external auditory canal to the eardrum

    Outer ear

    The visible part of the external ear collects sound and directs it into the external auditory canal towards the eardrum.
  • In the middle ear, the eardrum is connected to the ossicles which amplify and transmit the vibrations to the inner ear

    Middle ear

    In the middle ear, the eardrum is connected to the ossicles which amplify and transmit the vibrations to the inner ear.
  • The inner ear has two parts, one is the cochlea which converts the sound vibrations into electrical impulses

    Inner ear

    The inner ear has two parts, the cochlea which converts sound vibrations into electrical impulses and the vestibular system which maintains our balance.
Man wearing Philips HearLink rechargeable hearing aids connects with his grandson.

3 amazing facts about your ears

  • The cochlea in your inner ear has the circumference of a pencil eraser.
  • The ossicles are three bones in your inner ear: the hammer, anvil and stirrup. They are the smallest bones in the human body. The stirrup is approximately 2-3 mm long.
  • The inner ear contains your balance organs, which send signals to your brain about your movements and orientation.

Ever wondered what hearing loss might sound like?

Our hearing loss simulator lets you experience different sounds with different degrees of high frequency hearing loss. High frequency hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss.

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We can help you find your closest hearing care specialist who can provide you with Philips HearLink hearing aids.

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