What Do Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cochlear Implants Sound Like?


Image from sxc.hu user Ambrozjo

I had been looking for resources that show those with normal hearing what it’s like to hear with different levels of hearing loss, hearing aids, and cochlear implants. I had two resources in an old blog post and found three more today, so I’m combining them in this post.

As I come across more resources, I’ll add them. The bottom half of this post has an explanation of what it’s like for me to hear.

Hearing simulations

Hearing loss demos demonstrates what various degrees of hearing loss sound like. It has a variety of sound clips (singing, birds, telephone, musical instruments, etc.) and how they sound to someone with normal hearing, mild to moderate hearing loss and moderate to severe hearing loss.

How I Hear is an interactive tool that lets you press play on the clip and then toggle to configure severity.

This PowerPoint file is a simulation of what a cochlear implant sounds like. Be sure to play the presentation to see it work.

The following clever video from “The Flintstones” changes the sound to show you how someone with normal hearing, mild hearing loss, and moderate hearing loss hears the show. (Source: wunderlife)

This “Cochlear implant: simulation on speech and music” video is a simulation of what users of a cochlear implant hear for speech and music. (Source: wunderlife)

Hearing Loss Simulation through “Hear the World” song

Hear Loss Simulation with Dinah Shore

What it’s like to be hearing impaired

What it’s like for me to hear

I was born profoundly deaf, started wearing hearing aids at age 1, attended roughly 10 years of speech therapy and received a cochlear implant in my early 30s. I’ve always been able to recognize human voices. Most of the time, I could tell you if it was a man, woman or child. But I could not translate the speech into understandable English.

It’s like this image.

French clip

The following questions don’t apply if you’re fluent in the language shown in the image.

  • Can you tell what the image is? If yes, that’s like my ability to figure out I’m hearing someone talking as opposed to animal and other sounds.
  • Can you tell what language it is? If so, that’s like my ability to figure out if it’s a man, woman, or child talking.
  • Can you figure out a few of the words? If yes, that’s like my ability to recognize words — people saying my name or a common word like “Hello.”
  • Can you translate the paragraph and memorize it? If yes, add music and it’s like my learning the lyrics to a song and being able to follow it.

This applies to both hearing aids and the cochlear implant. The only difference is that I pick up more sounds and from further away with the cochlear implant. However, it didn’t increase (not noticeable anyway) my ability to translate human speech into English.


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  1. I really like your explanation of what it is like for you to hear. Giving a hearing person a visual example is very smart!

      • on June 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm
      • Reply

      Jen, thanks. I stumbled on your blog and saw the two resources you shared, which compelled me to put this post together. Thanks for that, too. Keep up the good work with your cochlear implant. Sounds like itโ€™s going well.

    • volker on June 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm
    • Reply

    interesting read. my father has been hearing disabled from the age 3, always wearing hearing aids, but still being able to hear very loud sounds without any; never learned sign language, but is a good lip reader.
    after completely loosing hearing on his right ear, he received a cochlear implant there in 2005, then being 71. it was fascinating to accompany him through the process of re-learning how to hear properly again with the implant. now he hears better than ever before and is grateful for the technology.
    and since he still has some natural hearing on his left ear (supported by a hearing aid) and the cochlea for his right ear, he became somewhat of a guniea pig for the local university: they’re constantly running different hearing tests on him to see how people with reduced hearing ability perceive hearing with a cochlea implant ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Deb on September 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm
    • Reply

    What a great site! I have moderate hearing loss and have been accused by family members of making a “big deal” about how difficult it is to hear at family gatherings. They “know” this because I “obviously” do so well. (Clueless about how much I patch together scraps of sound and make educated guesses.) I am sharing this with them. THANK you.

    • Harry on November 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm
    • Reply


    Thank you for a very informative site. I have a girl friend who is currently using one of the implanted device I think it is Harmony. Sometimes, I sing a song for her and I am always wondering how my voice or music that I play will be processed. I am wondering if you or anyone here could kindly explain to me how did you record the voice/music that you just played on the example above. It will be wonderful if I can find out how my voice “sound like” to her through the device.

    Thanks so much again !

      • on November 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm
      • Reply

      I didn’t make the samples. You might go to sites where these clips come from and ask the person behind them.

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