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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Birtles

Your 5 Key Hearing Skills

Hearing is a sense that never switches off and has evolved as mankind’s early warning system, helping us identify and stay protected from potential threats.

To this day it is still helping us in all aspects of life; from keeping us safe to enhancing our interactions with others and the world around us, but how well do you actually know your hearing? The World Health Organisation identifies 5 key hearing skills that directly impact our hearing in day-to-day life. These are:

  • Detection

  • Distinction

  • Localisation

  • Intelligibility in quiet

  • Intelligibility in noise

Detection of sounds

Sound detection refers to how well you hear specific sounds across the range of audible frequencies. For example, being able to hear a truck rumbling in the distance or birds singing close by. This skill is essential for knowing what is going on around you and for your quality of life.

Detection of sounds can help you enjoy music to the fullest, experience pleasure from being in nature, and allow you to have uninterrupted conversations with loved ones. However, without this skill you may find it more challenging when interacting with your environment or find it harder to interpret what is going on around you.

Distinction of sounds

Sound distinction refers to your ability to distinguish different sounds and tell them apart. For example, being able to identify different birds by listening to their song. This skill is essential when it comes to recognising the sounds that are important in your life and work.

This skill can help you recognise the voices of your loved ones, and ensure you react quickly to important sounds around you, such as alerts and cries for help. Without this skill you may find yourself struggling to make out similar sounding words, understand what the sounds around you mean, or be unable to operate machinery or equipment.

Auditory localisation

Auditory localisation is your ability to locate from which direction sounds are coming from. For example, which way traffic is approaching from when you cross the road. This skill is key to keeping us safe in busy or dangerous situations, and helps us interact and engage in activities and conversations with others.

This skill helps you safe by making sure you can react and respond to alarms, emergencies, and moving objects. It also helps you judge how far away something is, allowing you to participate and engage in a variety of sports and hobbies. Being unable to localise sounds may make it harder to ensure your personal safety at home or at work, and make it difficult to identify who is speaking in a group.

Intelligibility in quiet

Intelligibility in quiet refers to how well you understand speech and what you are able to hear in quiet environments. For example, being able to understand what someone is telling you on the phone. This skill is very important for our 1-on-1 social interactions.

This skill helps you have meaningful conversations and relationships as well as helping you interact and engage easily with friends, family and colleagues. Without this skill you may find that you struggle to understand what's been said, find it hard to engage with people on the phone, and have trouble interacting with modern voice-controlled devices like Alexa.

Intelligibility in noise

Intelligibility in noise refers to how well you understand speech and what you can hear in noisy and distracting environments. For example, following a group conversation in a cafe. This skill is very important for our social interactions with groups of people, when out and about, and in noisy workplaces.

This skill helps you engage with your family around loud children and in busy environments, enjoy an active social life and participate in group activities and projects. If you are unable to understand speech in noise, you may find yourself struggling to follow and participate in group conversations, or struggling to contribute at work and in community activities, which could leave you feeling isolated and left out.

It's so important to ensure that you look after your hearing skills and live well longer, start today with eargym.


Avoid exposure to loud noises when you can. Loud noises can damage your ear’s hair cells, this is especially important if you work in noisy places or use headphones often.


Regular hearing checks are essential to keeping an eye on your hearing health to ensure you take the right steps to protect your hearing at the right times.


Like any other skills, your hearing can be improved upon with practise and training. eargym specialise in bespoke immersive auditory training games that help your ears and brain adapt to your changing hearing ability.


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