Do deaf people "hear" sounds in their heads?

Emelie

New Member
Hi! I'm curious about something that I've been thinking about. I'm a hearing person and I constantly "hear" sounds in my mind. Do someone who has always been completely deaf "hear" anything in their heads? I'm not asking about how you process language, but about sounds in general. Are there any sounds, albeit made up ones, or is there only silence? I googled, and found a lot about people who have gone deaf and remember sounds, but nothing about people who have been deaf from birth or from a very young age. I love knowing how things work and I am very curious about this. I hope can get some answers here.

(I apologize if this is a stupid question, or if it has been asked, and answered, a million times)

/Emelie
 

NaidaUP

Well-Known Member
I'm totally deaf without my hearing aids but I also have tinnitus so hear all sorts of noises in my head. My tinnitus isn't 24/7 tho, other times its silence for me anyway. It maybe different for other people.
 

femme Fatale

Official AD Nutcracker
Aside from occasional tinnitus, I hear what sounds like a piano if I wake up from barely getting any sleep. Not sureif it's associated with my CI, but I've noticed this since implantation.
 

drphil

Active Member
As I understand matter one has "auditory memory of sounds". Those born DEAF don't which is why, supposedly the difficulty in "speaking". This info came from Canadian Hearing Society-Hearing Help classes/Toronto.

aside I became bilateral DEAF December 20, 2006
 

Angel1989

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
I was not born deaf. Went deaf two years ago. I have all kinds of noises going on in my head. They can be different at times but I always have what sounds like an outside air conditioner unit, really loud hummm. On top of that I get radio stations, firecrackers, unkinown music, car alarm, beeping etc. 24/7 which makes it very difficult to sleep.
 

VacationGuy234

Active Member
OP, if you mean you think about sounds in your head, it is not the same as actually hearing sounds. For example, if you are thinking about a song that is just your brain playing it back from memory.

As far a tinnitus goes, you're not thinking about tinnitus, it's the hairs in your ear(s) vibrating. And, as far as I can tell, that is real sound.
 

Emelie

New Member
OP, if you mean you think about sounds in your head, it is not the same as actually hearing sounds. For example, if you are thinking about a song that is just your brain playing it back from memory.

As far a tinnitus goes, you're not thinking about tinnitus, it's the hairs in your ear(s) vibrating. And, as far as I can tell, that is real sound.

I did mean thinking about sounds, which I know isn't really hearing (thus the quotation marks), but I realize now that I might have been unclear, because I didn't even think about tinnitus (plus I'm Swedish so there's a language issue too). Do all sounds in one's mind come from memory? And does that mean that someone who has never heard anything can't "hear" their thoughts? They can't make up sounds?

Now I find myself wondering about the tinnitus part as well. I have tinnitus and that must be incredibly tough to deal with if you can't drown it out with music. How do you all deal with that? (I really want to know how) Also, how can a person have tinnitus if he/she can't hear?

I apologize if I'm being ignorant in any way, but I just find all this too interesting, and confusing, not to ask about it.
 

tuatara

pro-water
Premium Member
And does that mean that someone who has never heard anything can't "hear" their thoughts? They can't make up sounds?

Why would they make up sounds? How do you imagine them "hearing" their thoughts if they've never heard anything? What do you imagine them hearing? Spoken words? In English?

Or more specifically, why would someone make up sounds to describe their thoughts if their language is not based on sound, but on sight?
 

Angel1989

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Speaking for myself, the tinnitus I have has become a major issue in my life. For example, last night a group of us went out to dinner. Of course the place was loud and I could not follow the conversation at all. After we went to a baseball game, loud again. Then the fireworks show, beautiful but loud again.

My head was throbbing, headache, pressure and crazy loud tinnitus. It stayed like this all night so I didn't sleep at all which is pretty typical for me. Today I am at home and it is very quiet here on purpose. I have the loud hummm, a song I do not recognize plus an over all feeling of total brain exhaustion. Most of my tinnitus comes from my non implanted ear.

I don't know for sure but my situation may be a little different since I had sudden traumatic total hearing loss. We are still trying to figure out if some of this might actually becoming from my brain.

Hope this information helps some.
 

Emelie

New Member
Why would they make up sounds? How do you imagine them "hearing" their thoughts if they've never heard anything? What do you imagine them hearing? Spoken words? In English?

Or more specifically, why would someone make up sounds to describe their thoughts if their language is not based on sound, but on sight?

I'm not sure how to expain what I mean, but I'm NOT asking about language. Thoughts are a lot more than just words. I guess my question is if the brain can "create" sounds even if they aren't based on anything real, whether it's voluntary or not, and connected to anything or not. But from your response I gather it can't. There's just silence?

Speaking for myself, the tinnitus I have has become a major issue in my life. For example, last night a group of us went out to dinner. Of course the place was loud and I could not follow the conversation at all. After we went to a baseball game, loud again. Then the fireworks show, beautiful but loud again.

My head was throbbing, headache, pressure and crazy loud tinnitus. It stayed like this all night so I didn't sleep at all which is pretty typical for me. Today I am at home and it is very quiet here on purpose. I have the loud hummm, a song I do not recognize plus an over all feeling of total brain exhaustion. Most of my tinnitus comes from my non implanted ear.

I don't know for sure but my situation may be a little different since I had sudden traumatic total hearing loss. We are still trying to figure out if some of this might actually becoming from my brain.

Hope this information helps some.

That sounds awful, and mindnumbing. I suppose experiencing "real" sounds in your head (like you explained in your previous post) isn't the same type of tinnitus that we hearing people have? Is this common? Is there anyway you can stop it? Will it fade over time? Is there anywhere I can read about this? (I tried googling but didn't find anything good)

I don't know if this has helped me, because I have a million more questions now, :) but it's definitely enlightening.
 

tuatara

pro-water
Premium Member
My post here came out harsher than what I should have written. I can't find a nicer rephrase, the content's exactly what I wanted to say, but less aggressive sounding. Can you adjust that in the reading?

I think it's interesting that you're only getting responses from people who either have *some* hearing or did at some point in the past. You're trying to find out what happens inside the experience of someone who has always been purely deaf, for good reason: you're wondering about what happens when there's no experience of external sound, and no memory of external sound.

It may be that for the people you'd really like to talk to, the question doesn't make sense. I don't know for sure, because I'm not deaf, so the experience isn't mine. But if it's not a question of sound vs silence, what-do-you-hear-when-you-can't-hear kind of thing, but instead this sense simply is not there, that's really different. It's like saying a blind person is seeing darkness vs just that they don't see.

Again I don't know. I suspect it's more like the second, but nobody lives in another person's experience. And I think that's part of the problem in trying to get an answer to your question. Because if you look at pure deafness from birth as never having experienced sound (not counting feeling vibrations, that sort of thing) then how is a person, coming from that place, going to describe their experience to you or me, in the context of our hearing experience? They don't know what it's like in our heads anymore than we can know what it's like in theirs. So it's almost like maybe there can be no language to effectively describe the one experience from the point of reference of the other. Again I'm not sure, but I think there are some things that are just lived, and if you try to *describe* them, the description never really does the job. Other people with the experience say "oh yeah, that's a good description of it" and people who haven't still don't get it. Sometimes they know they don't get it, other times they think they do, but the gap in understanding is still there.

I had a question once that I wanted to ask that involved the Deaf experience, and came up against the same wall. The people I asked were really nice about it, but we ended up in this awful tangle, and the more we tried to clarify, the tighter the knots became. I stood there trying to say "no, that's not really my question, I'll try to ask a different way..." and all the hearing people who saw me ask were like "yeah, that's a good question, I understand what you're asking" and the Deaf people were all looking at me like I was spouting gibberish. It may be that my question couldn't make sense to them, or maybe, from my own cultural (etc) standpoint, I wasn't able to comprehend why the answers they were giving me did make sense.

It's weird, you have some little curiosity, and go to check it out, and hit a hitch, and try to dig into it a little, and find out that you're actually looking at this massive canyon between you and what you're trying to understand. That was how I felt anyway. I think that becoming aware of that is extremely valuable though. Knowing that we don't know gives us a much better opportunity to, well, to not be jerks.
 

tuatara

pro-water
Premium Member
I'm not sure how to expain what I mean, but I'm NOT asking about language. Thoughts are a lot more than just words. I guess my question is if the brain can "create" sounds even if they aren't based on anything real, whether it's voluntary or not, and connected to anything or not. But from your response I gather it can't. There's just silence?


I'm not saying that. I was just responding specifically to your second post about making up sounds to describe their thoughts.

I think the brain can create sounds, or something that feels like sound in the way we psychologically experience it, assuming we also experience (or have experienced) real sound. What happens for people who are completely deaf and have been all their lives (your actual question) I have no idea. But I talked about that (and why I think it's such a tough thing to have an informative conversation about) in my last post.
 

Frisky Feline

Well-Known Member
I was born Deaf. If I wear my hearing aids, and one day I was not wearing my hearing aids. I do see any music bands, and it runs in my mind what I heard from my hearing aids. THen I do hear the sounds in my head. Not all the time because my body rely on the vibration of the music band anyway.
 

VacationGuy234

Active Member
I did mean thinking about sounds, which I know isn't really hearing (thus the quotation marks), but I realize now that I might have been unclear, because I didn't even think about tinnitus (plus I'm Swedish so there's a language issue too). Do all sounds in one's mind come from memory? And does that mean that someone who has never heard anything can't "hear" their thoughts? They can't make up sounds?

Now I find myself wondering about the tinnitus part as well. I have tinnitus and that must be incredibly tough to deal with if you can't drown it out with music. How do you all deal with that? (I really want to know how) Also, how can a person have tinnitus if he/she can't hear?

I apologize if I'm being ignorant in any way, but I just find all this too interesting, and confusing, not to ask about it.


I can't give a concise answer as to how the brain stores that information. I grew up with some hearing so sounds are part of how I understand speech. However, communication is not sound centric so the brain stores only the information needed. Consider a stop sign(hexagon symbol), you don't have to have heard the word stop to understand it. In fact, the ideograph can be absent of phonetic meaning to ensure people of different languages understand it. To put a point on it, the sign itself is sufficient as you don't have to hear to understand it. By the same token, people who have never heard can understand their own thoughts. Thinking, is not bound by any language phonetic or otherwise.

You can't turn off tinnitus because there is nothing stopping the neurological impulses from going to the brain. Once the hairs stop vibrating, the sounds(or vibrations) cease automatically. The question of how to get the hairs to stop vibrating has long been a topic of discussion.
 

needsleep

Member
Do you mean the deaf version of "what do people born blind see?" or do you mean does a deaf person's mind fill in a sound when they see a cup slammed down on a table?

Either way, I can't answer this question for you, having heard my whole life.
 

Kenliano

New Member
I am not deaf, so I cannot speak from experience. But I think I can try to provide an answer nonetheless.

If you have never experienced sound or sight or smell or pain (or any such sensation) your whole life, your brain would have zero idea of what those sensations are. It would be like a snake saying to us, "I feel infra-red radiation in my head sometimes. I know you're 'blind' to such things, but do you feel them, too?" Or a sting ray asking us about our perception of electromagnetic fields.

When you hear sounds in your head, you're tapping into your memory of what sounds are and creating something based on that memory. Without that memory, I don't think such creation would be happening. So, I think that someone who's profoundly deaf and never experienced sound would not hear sounds in his/her head.
 

Emelie

New Member
It may be that for the people you'd really like to talk to, the question doesn't make sense. [...] Because if you look at pure deafness from birth as never having experienced sound (not counting feeling vibrations, that sort of thing) then how is a person, coming from that place, going to describe their experience to you or me, in the context of our hearing experience? They don't know what it's like in our heads anymore than we can know what it's like in theirs. So it's almost like maybe there can be no language to effectively describe the one experience from the point of reference of the other. Again I'm not sure, but I think there are some things that are just lived, and if you try to *describe* them, the description never really does the job.

That might be the problem, yes. I suppose nobody can really explain what any sensation is like, except that you feel it in your mind or body. But, if a deaf person were to experience sounds in their heads, without knowing what it is, at least they could say they experience something that isn't sight or anything else that they have a word for. It might not make any sense, to anyone, but it would be a clue.

I suppose a brain scientist performing scans could tell if the... sound part of the brain (I wish I knew some better words) is active or not. That has probably/definitely been done many, many times, but I couldn't find anything about it (I think I'm bad at googling) and it doesn't account for the personal experience anyway. I think the only one who could give a definite answer is someone who has always been deaf and then has gotten an implant. Then they could remember if they had experienced sounds before they really heard them.

When you hear sounds in your head, you're tapping into your memory of what sounds are and creating something based on that memory. Without that memory, I don't think such creation would be happening. So, I think that someone who's profoundly deaf and never experienced sound would not hear sounds in his/her head.

Yes, that makes a lot of sense, but I wish that someone, like a brain scientist, could confirm it. I keep thinking that maybe the brain can make up sounds, since it makes up a lot of other things, e.g. the flashes of light you might see when you're dizzy, but maybe that's based on memory too.
 
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