When we communicate through spoken language, only speaking and hearing is not all that happens. A complex process takes place in the background to understand, process, and respond to the message every time something is spoken and heard.
Let us understand in detail how the spoken language is processed to recognize when we hear it.
What is the spoken language?
The spoken language, as the name suggests, is a language produced by articulate sounds, opposite to a written language. It is also mentioned as an oral language or a vocal language as it is produced with the vocal tract, unlike the sign language produced with the hands and face.
A spoken language is often more casual and spontaneous. Some spoken languages even do not have a written format to support it. This is why it becomes very difficult yet important to understand how it functions to avoid any confusion while communicating. Also, it may help to identify when there is a problem in hearing that might be indicated by a change in the level of understanding of the spoken language.
How is the spoken language processed in the human brain?
Spoken Language processing is the way we use words to communicate ideas and feelings, and how such communications are processed and understood. It is considered to be a uniquely human ability that is not produced with the same grammatical understanding or systematicity in even human’s closest primates.
The latest theory in spoken language processing is the dual auditory pathway. Under this model, two pathways connect the auditory cortex to the frontal lobe, each pathway accounting for different linguistic roles. The auditory ventral stream pathway, known as the auditory ‘what’ pathway, does the sound recognition. The auditory dorsal stream, known as the auditory ‘where’ pathway, is responsible for sound localization. This pathway, especially in the left hemisphere, is also responsible for speech production, speech repetition, lip-reading, and phonological working memory and long-term memory in humans.
The partway of the two streams occurs first in the auditory nerve where the anterior branch enters the anterior cochlear nucleus in the brainstem that rises to the auditory ventral stream. The posterior branch then enters the dorsal and posteroventral cochlear nucleus and gives rise to the auditory dorsal stream.
How do we understand a spoken language when we hear?
While it seems quite simple that we hear and then respond to what is said, a complex back and forth of signals happen which we do not realize because of the speed of the process.
Understanding a spoken language is a complex process between two main organs of the human body i.e. ear and brain to make it a success.
The ear collects the signals by hearing the spoken words from any origin and conducts amplification and analysis without much distortion. The signal is then collected by small nerve fibers in the ear to channel it to the brain. These signals arrive at the part of the brain which is responsible to process and decode these signals using logic and memory.
An adult human being had a lot of information received and stored from the earlier life experiences of similar or the same signals. So the brain first searches within the stored memory to organize it into interesting and meaningful sounds that may create a total sort of a picture. Thus it is able to decode the signal getting the meaning out to understand the message of the speaker. This happens on a regular basis and continuously in real-time and effortlessly. However, it is a very fast process that human beings can be totally unaware of this happening.
For instance, when we hear the sound of a doorbell, our ear takes the sound signal, analyzes it, and forwards it to the brain. The brain uses its previously stored data and works on it to create a picture of someone standing at the door. That is how we understand what is the response expected when we hear a sound. Similarly, when we hear a word or speech which is familiar to us from prior experience, we can easily identify a person from the voice as well as a language if it is known to us. We can understand the meaning and emotions behind it with processing in the brain as soon as we hear it.
Did you know?
Difficulty in hearing could affect the ability of your brain to understand the meaning of what is being spoken.
As we discussed above, hearing is the first step to understand what is spoken in any human language. Hence, if your hearing is impaired, it will directly affect how you process the spoken language.
Now, let us understand in detail, how difficulty in hearing is responsible” for problems with spoken language processing in humans.
People with hearing loss do not really face the problem in hearing but in discriminating speeches like ‘call’ from ‘ball’ or differentiating the “d” from “g”.
In any spoken language, each alphabet, word ending, and sound corresponds to a specific frequency. With hearing loss, certain frequencies are lost resulting in the brain being unable to interpret those sounds correctly like before. For example, if you have a hearing loss between 500-4000Hz, you will have a noticeable loss of sounds within that frequency and as a result, you can not process the letters and sounds falling into this range of hearing frequency.
Hearing loss is not just an auditory capacity loss. It impacts the relationship between the auditory pathways and neurological pathways significantly which results in causing the brain to forget the interpretation of certain sounds eventually. As the hair cell is damaged in-ear, it also results in slow speech perception, listening fatigue, and poor cognitive performance.
How to enhance the spoken language understanding in people with hearing loss?
There are two parts to enhance the effective understanding of the spoken language in people with hearing difficulty. One part is about improving the hearing ability and the second part is to work on the processing of information in the brain which is degrading too because of the hearing loss.
There are certain hearing loss conditions that are not medically treatable. In such cases, spoken language is not a resource to work upon as they are dependent on visual communication only. For the hearing loss which is medically treatable, the treatment mode will depend on the condition and type of problem. Surgery might improve your ability to hear in severe cases. Normally, a hearing aid is a go-to option for people with difficulty in hearing. With modern developments, a wide range of customized hearing aids are available to suit the patient’s specific needs to improve the quality of hearing.
While hearing aids can be a great help to improve the ability to hear various frequencies if you are dealing with hearing loss, your brain still needs to re-acquire the learning of how to interpret those frequencies of sound to process it properly. There are various activities to do auditory rehabilitation in such cases which helps your brain to learn and function the way it is supposed to when it receives any sound signal. Also, speech therapies and fun activities to understand sounds and languages helps train the brain to process a sound signal properly.
Hereby, the best help for better speech understanding in people with hearing problems can be an effective combination of a customized hearing aid along with suggested auditory rehabilitation activities under the supervision of specialized team like. This process under special supervision like in Quality Hearing Care will not only help the patient to improve the hearing capabilities under certain frequencies but also to train their brain to efficiently process and understand the signals and interpret better for helping them communicate with better speech perception.
When we hear properly, it will result in understanding better what the speaker wants to express. Start your journey to more effective communication by understanding spoken language and learning more about what hearing aid is suitable for your need to enhance your lifestyle.
If you are facing any difficulty in hearing or you have someone near you who can benefit from expert help, bring them in contact with the experts in the field in Quality Health Care.
Take an online assessment today to check your hearing quality as the first step towards a better understanding of spoken language.