What are some of your favorite sounds? Our lives are filled with sounds that can transport us to a time or place with meaning. Although not all sounds are pleasant, they do evoke an emotional response. What researchers wanted to know, is whether or not people with hearing loss have the same emotional responses to sound as those without (Picou, 2017).


Music is a sound capable of eliciting a wide range of emotional responses, and as such, was the tool used to test this concept. The study divided sound into four categories; pleasant/excited, pleasant/calm, unpleasant/excited, and unpleasant/calm. Each participant rated their responses to the sounds and were scored accordingly. Participants ranged in age from 22 to 80 and severity of hearing loss from normal to moderately-severe sensorineural hearing loss.


The results of the study showed that as the severity of hearing increased (worsened), the emotional response lessened. Not only did participants with more severe hearing loss have less emotional reactions to the music, they also found more sounds to be unpleasant. There was no difference in results based on age, but a significant difference based on hearing. “These data suggest that listeners with sensorineural hearing loss are less emotionally affected by sounds than their peers with normal hearing. As a result, people with hearing loss may not be fully benefiting from activities that their peers with normal hearing find pleasurable, like laughing with friends or listening to music.” (Picou, 2017, pp. 14-16).


The results of the study also showed that consistent hearing device users responded more similarly to the individuals with normal hearing when it came to pleasant or unpleasant sounds. This means that wearing an appropriately fit and programmed hearing device can make listening more enjoyable for individuals with hearing loss.


As an audiologist, I am always striving to improve the way individuals with hearing loss perceive their surroundings and interact with others. Difficulty in noise or with hearing music are common complaints for hearing device users. Modern hearing devices are designed to give the user a more authentic perception of music. They also have technology which allows the wearer to hear speech better in more difficult environments such as restaurants and groups. With improvements in technology, those with hearing loss can enjoy music and laughter and find emotional connections to the sounds around them through the use of quality hearing devices. As always, it is important to see a professional to ensure proper fitting and care of hearing devices.

 

REFERENCE: Picou, E. M., Buono, G. H., & Virts, M. L. (2017, May). Can Hearing Aids Affect Emotional Response to Sound? Hearing Journal, 70(5), 14-16.

Authored by Sarah Lundstrom, Au.D.

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