The brain’s reaction to hearing loss
Even the most pre-eminent of medical practitioners will admit that studies into the brain are still just skimming the surface, yet journalist Iain Robertson has been scouring their papers to get a handle on what is available.
Encased within a boney cage, reliant on both oxygenated blood-flow and regular exercise, our brains are organs presenting magic and mystery that, no matter what your religious belief, only the gods could create. Regarded as a ‘super-computer’, the brain has no mechanical rivals. It can assess, address and process signals from multiple sources providing logical results to any and all requests made of it.
Of course, maturity can play its denigratory role, if we allow it, by smoothing off some of the critical edges that might lead to some minor breakdowns in service. However, training the brain, just as you might your body for a marathon, remains a key in stemming the onset of possible dementia. Feed it. Take it ‘walkies’. Keep it active. Keep teaching it. Sing. Play. Rest. Then, sing again! Cyclical exercise will maintain brain activity at optimum levels and it is vital never to give up on its potential, even though, at times, it may feel as though it has given up on you.
While research continues into brain functionality and its links to ‘mental frailty’, it is already clear that sensual denigration, such as hearing loss, which is no respecter of age, can lead to deeper issues, such as clinical depression, which is known to be a ‘killer’ condition, in fact one of the largest in the world, and Alzheimer’s Disease. When we hear, sound waves travel from the outer ear, to the middle ear and the inner ear, where the still unintelligible vibrations stimulate thousands of tiny hair cells.
They send electrical signals to the auditory nerve, which carries them to the auditory centre of the brain, where they are converted into recognisable word, speech, tonal and musical sounds, all of which our brains have gathered and grown from, since before birth. Yet, one of the healthy brain’s most special attributes is that it can decipher, discriminate and direct relevant sounds from background noise, which helps us to focus on what we wish to, the inner volume adjusting and amplifying accordingly.
Research has already revealed that annoying tinnitus can be remedied. By activating a ‘reset’ button in the brain and retraining it, the neurons that create the ‘ringing’ condition can be made to revert to their original functions, further underscoring that it is not a hearing condition but one that is caused by hearing loss, however minor.
For such an important human function as the sense of hearing to be largely ignored by people enduring its loss is a sad state of mis-education. We only possess five primary senses. It is our duty to ensure that we service them, maintain them and ensure that they are working at their optimum levels for as long as we possibly can. If we have difficulty seeing, we get spectacles. If we lose our ability to taste, smell, or touch, we seek help. Yet, for some reason, whether it be vanity, or shame, or even a misbegotten belief that it might return mystically, we apply any amount of auditory cleansers and wonder why full hearing does not return. It might do…very rarely.
Untreated, hearing loss will affect the personal quality of life. However, more importantly, it will affect the brain’s capacity to recall everyday sounds, because those cells responsible are no longer in regular use and are either switched onto an alternative function, or turned off altogether. It is already known that the brain centre stores sounds and noises for up to three years, after hearing loss is first detected, but that it takes up to seven years before the memory of them becomes so weak that it disappears.
The knack lies in being tested for and probably fitting a hearing aid, before the fullest effects of sensual loss impact on the brain. To help the brain to learn and retain sounds, however facile that might appear, is one of our duties. Helping the brain to recognise its three main functions of locating the timing of a sound, the intensity of a sound and filtering its frequency will halt a slump into a depressive state. Of course, companies like Hidden Hearing can address many auditory issues by helping your brain to help you. It is not an ‘easy fix’ but it can be an eminently satisfying and life-affirming one and the company can provide innumerable positive endorsements from ordinary people, whose lives have become vastly improved, even reborn, by committing to the use of auditory aids.
The bottom-line, because there is one, is to get your hearing tested by a knowledgable technician. The resultant re-education of the brain only serves to underline the value of a marvellous organ, about which scientists continue to unravel important facts that help all of us to enjoy fulfilled lives.