Exercise your ‘sound muscles’

Use it or lose it.

We all know we need to exercise our muscles.  Now we find that we need to exercise our brains as well. Muscles wither away (atrophy) if you don’t use them — Apparently the same is true for neural pathways.

Why is this important to hearing? Because you hear with your brain, not your ears.  Your ears merely receive vibrations and pass them on as nerve signals to your brain.  These sound vibrations have absolutely no meaning at all until your brain interprets them.  Speech recognition, environmental sound recognition, even music, all depend on your brain to process them into something recognizable to you — it’s all highly complex and really quite amazing.

Even if some bits are missed or don’t get through to your brain it still manages to connect the dots.  It’s actually doing this all of the time.  People with ‘normal’ hearing do not hear everything, especially in speech, but our brains are incredibly skilled at filling in the blanks.  Our brains had Auto Word Fill long before our smartphones.  The problems start when there are more bits missing– then our brains have a harder time ‘guessing’ at what’s missing–just like the bad ‘guesses’ our smartphones make when we are texting.

When the missing bits get too large we tend to give up trying.  We withdraw—it’s too frustrating to try to hear.  We are embarrassed to keep asking people to repeat themselves.  Public announcements, movie dialog, parties, even dinner with friends become stressful ordeals rather than relaxing fun.  We start avoiding social situations and living more and more in our own little world.  We don’t realize how little sound is reaching our brains — if you can’t hear a sound,  you don’t know you’ve missed it.  The brain doesn’t waste resources on unused neural parts.  Just like you forget how to do things you once knew how to do (like speaking the French you learned in high school) , when you don’t use your hearing skills enough, your brain ‘forgets’ how to hear.  Skills we once took for granted, like understanding speech in background noise, start slipping away and we don’t realize it because we are avoiding noisy social gatherings.

On average, people wait seven years to get hearing aids after they first notice some hearing loss.

The longer you wait, the fewer ‘hearing skills’ will be available to you.  Hearing aids only amplify sound — they don’t regrow neural pathways that are long gone from disuse and age.  You wont get as much benefit from hearing aids if you wait too long.  You need to keep your auditory brain stimulated.  If you aren’t ready for hearing aids use some kind of sound amplification device, but, whatever you do, keep exercising your ‘sound muscles’

Research Symposium 2012 HLAA Convention, Central Auditory System Basics and the Effects of Abnormal
 Auditory Input to the Brain, Presenter:Amanda Lauer, Ph.D., assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head
 and Neck Surgery at John Hopkins University

Famous People with Hearing Loss

They don’t let hearing loss get in the way of their dreams.

Halle Berry                620-06-hearing-loss-celebrity-halle-berry.imgcache.rev1409773563612.web

A victim of domestic violence some 20 years ago, Oscar winner Halle Berry lost 80 percent of her hearing in her left ear when an abusive boyfriend struck her repeatedly. She often speaks about her hearing loss to raise awareness and help other women break the cycle of violence.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Rob Lowe                  620-08-hearing-loss-celebrity-rob-lowe.imgcache.rev1409773519298.web

Undiagnosed mumps when he was a baby left Lowe totally deaf in his right ear. “Really loud restaurants drive me ballistic,” Lowe told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I live in a mono world. I wish I could [hear in] stereo. But other than that, I don’t think about my hearing loss.’’

Dennis Van Tine/Corbis

Bill Clinton               620-02-hearing-loss-celebrity-bill-clinton.imgcache.rev1409773727340.web

Like many boomers, Clinton ignored his hearing difficulties for years until doctors diagnosed him with high-frequency hearing deficiency, the most common form of hearing loss. Described as an inability to distinguish sounds in noisy, crowded situations with a lot of background chatter (such as restaurants, theaters or political rallies), it’s linked to aging and exposure to loud noise. Clinton now wears two in-canal hearing aids.

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Holly Hunter            620-09-hearing-loss-celebrity-holly-hunter.imgcache.rev1409773539218.web

A childhood bout with mumps left Hunter deaf in her left ear. But this Academy Award winner known for her edgy roles and acute attention to detail told CNN that her disability has been a boon to her career: “I’ve had to listen so intently to what people are saying,” she said — and she transfers that attention to detail to her roles.

Kay Nietfeld/Corbis

Stephen Colbert       620-03-hearing-loss-celebrity-stephen-colbert.imgcache.rev1409773692580.web

The political satirist and Emmy-winning talk show host was in elementary school when doctors discovered a tumor in his right ear. In order to safely remove it, they also had to remove Colbert’s eardrum, leaving him deaf in that ear.

Evan Agostini/AP

Jane Lynch                620-07-hearing-loss-celebrity-jane-lynch.imgcache.rev1409773602683.web

Best known for her role on the hit TV show Glee, Lynch didn’t realize she was deaf in her right ear — probably from a high fever when she was a baby — until she was 7 years old. “My brother was switching his transistor radio from one ear to the other,’’ she explained in her 2011 memoir, Happy Accidents. “I said, ‘You can’t do that. You can only hear out of one ear.’ He said, ‘No, I can hear out of both!’”

Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Trevor Project

Robert Redford        620-01-hearing-loss-celebrity-robert-redford.imgcache.rev1409773759879.web

Redford, 78, insisted on performing his own stunts while filming his critically acclaimed 2013  movie, All Is Lost. Playing a solo sailor stranded in the Indian Ocean, he was submerged in a massive water tank day after day and pelted with water from an off-camera hose. The result: a severe ear infection that permanently robbed him of 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear.

Hubert Boesl/Corbis

Jodie Foster              620-10-hearing-loss-celebrity-jodie-foster.imgcache.rev1409773497832.web

Foster is notoriously circumspect about all areas of her personal life, but she confessed to a Chicago Tribune reporter that she’s not very good about taking care of her own health needs, especially “this hearing-loss thing” and her mysterious attacks of vertigo. She has been spotted wearing a hearing aid.

Stephane Cardinale/Corbis

Pete Townshend      620-05-hearing-loss-celebrity-pete-townshend.imgcache.rev1409773622352.web

The iconic songwriter and guitarist of the Who attributes his hearing loss and tinnitus to years of mega-decibel rock concerts and practice sessions, along with long-term use of headphones. Not helping matters any was Townshend’s bandmate Keith Moon, who’d use explosives to blow up his drum set — including a particularly powerful and deafening blast at the end of a 1967 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Rush Limbaugh        620-04-hearing-loss-celebrity-rush-limbaugh.imgcache.rev1409773649451.web

In 2001, Limbaugh announced that he was virtually deaf. At the time, he said doctors had diagnosed autoimmune inner-ear disease, a rare condition. But according to CBS News and other news sources, his use of opioid painkillers may have contributed to his hearing loss. With two cochlear implants, he’s regained some hearing.

George Gojkovich/Getty Images


Power Tools

We use tools to expand our capabilities.

We use tools to extend the reach of our senses. It is so commonplace we don’t even think about how our TV is bringing us images and sound from thousands of miles away, yet we don’t refer to our TV’s as ‘visual and hearing aids’. The earbuds from your iPhone are ‘hearing aids’ –they allow you to hear silent electronic impulses as sound that your ears could never hear without them.

It’s time to dump the emotional baggage we associate with HEARING LOSS. You never could hear everything. Your cat hears more than you ever could (humans 64-23,000Hz; cats 45-64,000Hz). Your cat has always thought you were disabled.

You don’t have eyes in the back of your head — you are meant to be prey for anything that can sneak up on you.

How many times have you needed a third hand to put something together.

We humans are all disabled compared to some other creature. . When we first enter the world we can’t feed ourselves, we can’t even hold our own heads up. Newborn baby guinea pigs run around, have a full set of teeth, and eat adult food before their fur is dry.

We are physically weaker than apes half our size.

What humans do is learn to live with our species’ handicaps—it’s called adaptation. We use technology (tools) to overcome our weakness. We use power tools to accomplish tasks we could never do with our muscles alone. Nobody thinks he’s less of a man for using power tools.  Of course he doesn’t call them ‘mechanical aids’ or refer to his ‘muscular loss’.

Hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices (ALD’s), personal sound amplification devices (PSAP’s) are all power tools.