- Thomas Pilla
Your Brain Is the Brains Behind Healthy Hearing
Every year in June, health professionals dedicate raising public awareness about Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness health. We’d like to particularly focus on the connection brain has on hearing.
Brain awareness is important to those of us in the world of hearing health because it gives us a chance to share important facts about how hearing works. For instance, your ears are just one part of your ability to hear. Recognizing sounds actually happens in the brain.
When sound waves enter your ear, they travel through the ear canal and vibrate your eardrum. Your eardrum sets a small series of bones into motion, which tap rhythmically against an inner-ear organ called the cochlea. Inside the cochlea, those vibrations are felt by tiny hair cells that turn those vibrations into electrical impulses. Those electrical impulses travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain then recognizes the sounds represented by those impulses and tells you what you are hearing.
When a person has hearing loss, the amount and/or quality of the sound data reaching the brain lessens, making it harder for the brain to decide what is being heard. In addition to making the person misidentify or miss sounds entirely, hearing loss causes the brain to work harder and harder at deciphering sounds.
Research suggests that such increased demand on the brain’s resources can cause them to be taken away from other important functions. Short-term memory and maintaining of balance are among the functions believed to be shortchanged in such situations. The continued overtaxing of the brain, it is believed, can literally strain it over time, leading to cognitive decline and even opening the door to eventual dementia.
Some people choose to relieve the strain of trying to hear by avoiding interactions with other people. But while withdrawing from people might relieve hearing-related stress, the social isolation that results is a known contributor to depression. Depression, combined with allowing one’s mental sharpness to decrease through lack of interaction—through essentially neglecting to exercise the brain—can further contribute to the eventual onset of dementia.
How has research been able to make these connections? Unfortunately, most people with a diagnosed hearing loss choose to do nothing about it, so the cognitive decline of many people has been observed. Family members often watch, helpless, as a loved one suffers the consequences of refusing to pursue a hearing loss solution, when something as simple as hearing aids could make all the difference. Hearing aids could make a positive change in the lives of 90% of people with hearing loss, yet 75% of people diagnosed with hearing loss ignore their condition.
If you would like to learn more about brain awareness, visit brainawareness.org on the web. If you would like to know more about the connection between brain health and heathy hearing, please contact us at Great Waterway Hearing, we’ll be happy to provide you with all the information you need
Here’s something to think about, by the way. Getting a hearing test will give us a baseline to check against as you get annual hearing checkups in the future. Then, if changes to your hearing begin to happen over time, we’ll be able to help you manage them and avoid putting undue pressure on your already busy brain.