Why does hearing sound bring us joy? The joy in hearing is more than just the opposite of the pain of not hearing. The joy of hearing is more subtle and refined.
Knowing you are not missing out and knowing you are safe, giving you the confidence that you are not making a fool of yourself cannot be under estimated. These are the obvious parts of life which most people take for granted - participating in conversation without having to concentrate; picking up the phone to call a friend or make an appointment; listening to a speaker or watching television.
But it is often the subtle sounds which bring us most joy. Take the mother who hears her baby cry for the first time, the father who hears his son whisper a secret or the lover who hears that moan of pleasure.
So many of life’s important moments involve the sense of sound. Even when we can’t sing tunefully, we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to family and friends, and Auld Lang Syne at New Year. We walk down the aisle on our wedding day to ‘Here Comes the Bride’ and at Christmas we sing carols. Graduations include triumphal marches, lovers have ‘our song’ and we sing nursery rhymes to comfort our babies. When we appreciate an important speech or the deeds of someone brave we applaud while some funerals include a gun salute. When our favourite team wins the football the cheerleaders chant while we stand cheering and Olympic medallists are honoured with the playing of their national anthem.
For most people, music brings incredible richness to their lives. Music has the ability to transport us back to an occasion when the song had special meaning. One hearing person told me for him the Joy of Hearing was not the everyday sounds, which he expects and takes for granted, but the nuances of music without which he would feel lost.
Environmental sounds bring us incredible pleasure. The crash of the waves on the sand, the whisper of the wind in the trees and the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot, the warble of magpies, the chime of bellbirds and the screech of the galah all become part of the soundtrack to our lives. Additionally sounds around us connect us to the world. The sounds of household appliances running, the knock at the door or chiming of the door bell, the phone ringing, cooking sizzling, the cat purring and dog barking, the tap running, the bang of a car door, the news on the radio and watching the latest movie at the cinema or on tv.
I asked a group of people, who had lost their hearing and then regained it, what the Joy of Hearing meant to them.
Chris told me, “My joy of hearing is first and foremost no longer being a conversational "wall flower". When I was deaf I was afraid to initiate a conversation because I knew I would quickly flounder with answers and look like an idiot.”
And Fiona says, “I would find it very hard to write a short list about my joy of hearing! I guess the main one would be no more feelings of isolation or frustration. Understanding speech in everyday situations, and hearing my children’s voices and laughter is priceless.”
“Probably the little things that the world takes for granted. Listening to a good song, listening to your kids’ talk and try to figure out what they are talking about, talking on telephone when once impossible.” said Michael
Ingrid said, “Hearing means being able to teach – teaching is a calling and when it was taken away I lost part of my soul.”
When someone goes gradually deaf they are unaware of missing sounds as it slowly fades. But when hearing is regained they really discover the joy in hearing. They are amazed at how much they had lost and it becomes a journey of joyous rediscovery. No longer is any sound taken for granted. All those everyday sounds mean so much and music, which had been a thing of the past or a negative experience because so many of the cadences and subtleties of the music had been lost, once again enriches their lives.
When we can’t hear, some of the wealth of our lives disappears. Faye told me regaining her hearing was “like adding sound to a silent movie, or moving from black and white TV to colour. Hearing makes life more enjoyable.”