Have you ever stopped to just listen? If you sit and just think about what you hear, you may notice things you never noticed before. Maybe you hear background noise from the television or radio, or you hear the cool hum of the fan or a dog barking across the neighborhood.
Most of the time our hearing is done without thinking—our brains automatically process the sounds that come to us through our ears. Like many things in life we don’t think about, the automatic processes of our bodies are amazing, and hearing is no exception.
Here are a few things you may not have known about hearing and how it works.
There is hair involved.
We all know about the hair on our heads and all over our bodies, but did you know that your ears have tiny hair cells that are crucial to the hearing process?
These tiny hair cells are called stereocilia, and they take the sound vibrations from the outer ear and convert them to electrical impulses that are sent along the auditory nerve for translation by the brain.
About 16,000 of these tiny hair cells are rolled up like a rug in our inner ears and are so vital to our hearing that we literally cannot translate noise into meaningful sound without them. When these hair cells die, we don’t regenerate them, and hearing loss results.
Stereocilia are most commonly damaged by very loud noise exposure or moderately high noise exposure repeated over time (also known as noise-induced hearing loss). Noise-induced hearing loss is the most avoidable as well: turn volume down or wear hearing protection when in noisy environments.
Your brain does the heavy lifting.
You may think of your ears as the main player in hearing, but you would be wrong: the brain does most of the work in hearing and understanding sound; the ears just gather the noise that surrounds us.
Your outer ear is like a satellite dish to gather sound from our environment and pipe it into the inner ear. Then the inner ear turns those sounds into electrical impulses and carries them along the auditory nerve to the brain that can then translate them into meaningful sound.
If you have hearing loss, you may need a nap.
If you have hearing loss, you may have noticed you are more tired than you used to be. Maybe you chalked it up to aging but hearing loss can actually cause fatigue.
Why? Because your brain is working harder to understand the world around you. What used to be effortless–hearing and interpreting sound into something meaningful—is now a lot more work. Even mental work can make us tired.
When you have hearing loss, you must rely on your other senses more to help you navigate life. You may need to read lips, facial expressions and body language or simply concentrate harder than you did before.
It can even cost you productivity at work. Fortunately hearing aids can help with this. If you are struggling with hearing loss and need relief, visit your audiologist for a hearing exam to see what treatment options make the most sense for you.
The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.
Diablo Hearing Services 2301 Camino Ramon, STE 106 San Ramon (925) 394-4646