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

7 thoughts on “Exercise your ‘sound muscles’

  1. I thought I knew all there was about the issues of hearing loss and then read “Skills we once took for granted, like understanding speech in background noise, start slipping away” and realized there is more I need to understand. No wonder listening in a noisy place is so hard, even with my HAs!
    Your Sound Muscles article is great. Thanks.

    1. Hi Dave,

      We love that we can support you on your hearing loss journey!
      Please check back for resources in the future and let us know if you have any resource requests!

      Thank you,

      Team HotEerz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *