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Do we hear with our ears?

Is thinking the same as hearing? Do we hear our own thoughts? And what about tinnitus. Do we really hear it? These are a questions I was recently asked and this is my opinion. I am not a professional nor a psychologist so you may have a different opinion. I don't think we 'hear' our own thoughts per se, thinking is not the same as hearing and is an entirely different process. I could think even when I couldnít hear and babies can hear even before they can think.

You could argue ĎI can hear the song going around and around in my brainí. Yes Iíve had that too, but I think this is part of the thinking process and not a hearing process. It is not part of the electrical stimulation caused by sound which we interpret as hearing. And then there is tinnitus. Do we hear tinnitus or is it part of thinking? It is my belief that tinnitus is caused by a malfunction in the hairs creating real electrical signals. Therefore this is a real stimulation being created in the hearing process and we do hear rather than think tinnitus even though no-one else can hear it.

Do we hear with our ears?
I believe hearing is in the brain. Having said that, the ear is the conduit of the sound vibrations, converting them to electrical impulses where they are sent to, decoded and understood in the brain. Both the hearing process and the brain's interpretation are needed to hear. Even if someone has a fully functioning ear but the connection to the brain is damaged then they will not be able to hear. A person with an acoustic neuroma would have this problem. And others without ears can sometimes hear with bone conduction Ė usually with an implant of some description.

I believe thinking is acquired through language. People born deaf who acquire sign language will think in sign language. My deaf sign language teacher told me she thinks in sign because this is her first language. She even told me she dreams in sign. But just like someone moving to a foreign country and learning a new language, once a deaf person acquires another language (usually their mother tongue) then they will probably think in this when communicating with other people who are speaking this language.

Anyone can think even if they can't hear or speak, but someone who is born deaf and does not acquire language cannot think in language and without language then thinking is likely to be basic. I have had many people tell of experiences with their children who are deaf - or even those who are not deaf but for some reason have not acquired language. They are unable to communicate with these childen to explain things and this causes problems such as training them in basic things like going to the bathroom. It is my personal opinion that this is because with the understanding of language comes reasoning and without reasoning we canít explain many of the things about life.


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