Study on Dreams in People with Hearing Impairments

Study on Dreams in People with Hearing Impairments

Some people go all places while they sleep and wake up the next day with vivid memories of all the places they’ve traveled while others awake without any memory at all.
For those who remember, they might not only remember the often seemingly nonsensical string of events, but emotions, feelings, sights, smells, and sounds. It’s common to hear voices, ambient noises, and even music. How dreams work and what informs them is a slippery subject that can only be confirmed subjectively by people’s self-reports. However, for some researchers this brought up the question: do people with hearing loss dream differently? 

How Do You Dream?

Everyone dreams a little differently and it may not be the same for one individual consistently. Every dream is a little different. What controls your dreams are called “the manifest content” and it’s the events and storyline of your dreams. One of the most legendary experts on why we dream what we do, Sigmund Freud, explained that this is usually contrasted with what is referred to as the latent content or hidden meaning of the dream. Freud’s theory circulated the belief that the unconscious mind contained desires, urges, and thoughts that are unacceptable to the conscious mind. These might involve traumatic memories, secret desires, or socially objectionable urges that might cause distress if they were brought into awareness. He claimed that why we dreamed what we dream was due to free association – leading to the conclusion that dreams are the disguised fulfilments of repressed wishes.

Do People with Hearing Loss Dream Differently?

While it’s not exactly clear why we dream what we dream, researchers wondered how these desires affect your dreams when you struggle with vision or hearing in your waking life. For instance, do people born blind dream in full vision, and do people with congenital hearing loss and deafness dream with sound?

A 2011 study explored how people relate to sound and found that those with hearing loss still have access to sound when they dream. By interviewing a small cohort of 14 people with hearing impairments, they found that participants still reported being able to hear in their dreams, despite having limited hearing during their waking hours.

Meanwhile, a 2016 study published in Dreaming, discovered that those who have hearing loss do in fact dream a lot differently. By interviewing 86 students who had hearing loss and 344 students with normal hearing, they were able to see some strong differences between the two groups. To note, the students with hearing loss reported more vivid dreams including experiencing a strong sense of smell, taste, pain, and temperature changes as well as experiencing a number of emotions while dreaming. This included anger, fear, hope, and surprise. The researchers also noted that the students with hearing loss were able to recall their dreams with more ease. They reported higher instances of lucid dreaming as well, an experience where you are aware you are dreaming while in the dream.

Sensory Compensation

When one sense is weakened, often other senses will become more central to compensate. Why would the students with hearing loss have more intense emotions and sensations in dreams? The researchers reasoned that this could be due to sensory compensation. Those with a hearing loss already rely more heavily on visual cues such as lip reading, facial expression, and body language to gather more content from the person speaking. It only makes sense that this might affect dreams as well.

Untreated Hearing Loss

It may sound nice to have more intense dreams, but the reality of hearing loss is a serious and frustrating condition, affecting relationships throughout your life and struggling to connect daily. This can give way to feelings of depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and loneliness. It can also affect cognitive function, as your brain is constantly tasked with the chore of filling in missing sounds in words and sentences, taking away from other aspects of thinking. 

Schedule a Hearing Test

The important thing to remember is that you can and should treat your hearing loss. With amplified hearing when using hearing aids you can connect to the world around you. Don’t just dream it! Schedule a hearing exam today!