In the March 2020 issue, discover our special feature called "Hearing : Hopeless decline ?". Inserm’s magazine illustrates discoveries, debates and issues from the ever-evolving field of biomedical research.
The sense of hearing is of near vital importance. Animals use it as one way of detecting and locating danger. It contributes to our survival as humans too, and also plays a major emotional role through the perception of environmental sounds and the enjoyment of music. Our ability to hear gives us valuable information about our surroundings and helps us to memorize places and events. First and foremost, however, is the decisive social role given to it by its involvement in verbal communication. Hearing is about listening and understanding what others say, express, and do, it is about being able to respond to them and join with their activities. Yet not only is this sense fragile, we also do not take care of it. We willingly expose our ears to frequent concert-going and headphone use, for example, and not so willingly to urban noise pollution. To make matters worse, the sensory structures that decipher sounds cannot regenerate: their destruction is permanent. Luckily, research in this field is in full swing. Although there are still no cures, impressive rehabilitation techniques have now proved successful and we can hope to be able to treat certain forms of hearing loss in the decades to come.