Sound is all around us. Hearing happens when sound waves are detected by the ear, converted into electrical signals and sent to the brain for processing. Once they reach the brain, it’s up to us to decide what we want to do with them.

Hearing versus listening

Your ears are always ‘on’. Hearing is the passive act of sensing frequency vibrations created by a moving object as it disturbs particles in the air. It constantly provides us with vital information about our surroundings. When we listen, we have to actively focus attention on a specific aspect of a soundscape – it’s about taking control of our sensory experience.

How’s your hearing?

Listening is often referred to as a skill and, as implied, it can be trained, developed and honed. But listening is much harder if our hearing isn’t functioning optimally. Hearing commonly deteriorates with age and environmental damage, so listening becomes much more effort, and that effort makes us tired.

You can take our Speech Perception Test right now to find out if your hearing is getting in the way of your listening ability.

Diagrammatic representation of the hearing system with ambient sound

Find out how hearing aids work