Important Differences Between Hearing and Vision

April 22, 2016 • In The News

Many individuals experience both hearing and vision loss.  Glasses and contact lenses often provide considerable and immediate improvement for vision loss with the goal of correcting vision to 20/20. In contrast, hearing aids do not restore hearing to normal but, they may provide significant benefit. There is an adaptation process associated with hearing aid use meaning it may take a patient weeks or months to fully adjust to amplification. What are some expected differences that can explain the difference between these two impairments?

Independence versus Interdependence

Vision: Vision is an independent sense; it allows us to read, walk, and/or drive a car.  In other words, vision makes it easier for us to do many activities on our own.

Hearing: Hearing is an interdependent sense meaning it allows us to listen to other people speaking to us.  In other words, hearing usually involves a speaker as well as a listener. Despite recent advancements in hearing aid technology, many hearing aid users continue to report difficulty in the following listening environments: when background noise is present, in dimly lit rooms, when the speakers talks quickly and mumble, and when the speaker is distanced from the listener (such as in another room).

Persistence versus Evanescence

Vision: Most images that people see have persistence meaning they last for a while when we look at them.  Persistence of visual images (e.g., print in a book) offers us more time to figure out what we’re looking at.

Hearing:  Speech is the most important sound many people listen to, but its existence is fleeting.  When we miss what is said at the beginning of a conversation, it’s often difficult to try to catch up with and follow the rest of the conversation.  Hearing aids make sounds louder and therefore more audible. However, hearing aids will not correct for a fast rate of speech or make mumbled speech clearer.

Corrected Vision versus Aided Hearing

Vision: Many persons with a vision impairment are near-sighted, far-sighted, or have an astigmatism.  Eyeglasses or contact lenses can provide “corrected vision” for some visually impaired persons to normal (20/20) vision or near-normal vision.

Hearing: Appropriate counseling regarding hearing loss as well as realistic expectations with hearing aid use is very important. It is important for the patient and family to understand that hearing aids will not restore hearing to normal; however, they make sounds louder so that they are more easily heard.

If you or your family members have questions about your hearing, please contact us.


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