News, News and Events • December 12, 2021

Hearing and the Brain

“Your ear is like a muscle – use it or lose it.” – Jane

“Hearing aids are like a pair of shoes – they don’t get comfortable until you keep wearing them.” – Gabby

“Your brain is listening all the time even if you are not aware of it.” – Mel

Every audiologist at least once a day will say a sentence to the effect of “wear your hearing aids as much as possible as it is important”. The other most used sentence for those who are interested is “red is for the right ear, blue is for the left”.

Here we discuss why audiologists are universally united in having people who need hearing aids wear their hearing aids as much as possible, when possible, and will look at the role the brain plays in hearing.

There are two parts to hearing: the mechanical half of hearing – the ear canal, eardrum, cochlear and the auditory nerve; and the processing half – the brain.

A hearing aid can assist in overcoming hearing problems caused by a health problem with the mechanical part of hearing. But the brain processing of sound is intricate, delicate, fascinating and relies on the person with the brain using it.

If we do not get sound into the brain using the auditory pathways they atrophy and do not work as efficiently. One way to keep these auditory pathways active is to use hearing aids if you have a hearing loss.

There are other reasons besides communication that strong auditory pathways are important for which people may not at first consider.
For example, when walking your ears pick up subtle sounds and cues that assist with balance. With hearing loss, these cues are lost, resulting in increased brain effort.

This unconscious multitasking interferes with the mental processing needed to walk and balance safely. It’s not just about hearing when you are about to be hit by a truck!

If you experience chills while listening to music you are more likely to have a large number of fibres connecting areas of the auditory cortex to the areas of the brain used for processing emotion. The emotional connection when communicating with people cannot be underestimated. Using all pathways of the brain assists the brain to stay younger.

As the average hearing aid user waits 10 years before getting their first pair of hearing aids, wearing them as much as possible can assist in making the brain active and healthy and use all the auditory pathways that have been deprived.

So, wear your hearing aids and keep your brain fit and active.

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