The Brain-Ear connection

The Brain-Ear connection

The topic of the brain-ear connection has been discussed for many years in the world of researchers, but what does it really mean and why should you care? By understanding how important this connection is, it changes everything you know about good hearing health and the importance of acting sooner than later.

In the past, it was thought that a hearing problem was only affecting the ability to hear the volume of sound. You could witness the hard of hearing making mistakes in understanding words correctly, and by raising your voice and repeating yourself a few times, eventually, the message was understood.

It seemed more of an annoyance having to repeat everything, than a real concerning problem. I have heard some people say, “They just have selective hearing.” Or, “they choose not to listen” and even dismiss the problem with “it’s normal for my age”.

Perception of hearing loss

Our perception of hearing loss and the degree of its difficulty has been misunderstood by people with normal hearing for many years. With research studying the effects of hearing loss and now understanding that hearing loss is much more complex than just needing sounds to be louder, we need to recognize and recommend action to be taken sooner than later.

What about the Brain-Ear connection?

The brain receives signals from the ears. The brain perceives, identifies, clarifies, compartmentalizes, and responds to what the ear is sending to it. When the brain begins to lose critical information from the ear, it can’t maintain the same processes. We cannot reason with lack of information. We cannot comprehend the information if the information is full of holes.

The brain, in its capacity to reason, begins to discard bits of information because it is incomplete and/or unimportant. For example, imagine someone with a hearing loss, and because there is damage to the ear the brain only receives perhaps 20% of the information. How can someone make an intelligent decision with all the misinformation; the mumbling voices and the garbled speech? How long before the brain says it’s not relevant and unimportant and discards it?

Effects of deterioration

After years of gradual deteriorated hearing loss, which seems normal for those who are experiencing it, and lack of stimulation, the brain tissue begins to shrink at a faster rate affecting cognitive abilities and further auditory decline. Numerous studies show how brain tissue shrinkage can influence Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, the risk of falling and other serious health issues, as well as social and economic influences. We hear in the brain, and when the ears no longer send the correct amount of stimulation, the brain suffers.

Hearing aids can help.

Improve your health, happiness, and wealth. Feel good about the conversations you have. Become engaged in all that life has to offer and know you are doing more than just hearing well again. You are maintaining better brain health as well!

To read more about the brain-ear connection, click here to go to our Medical Studies page.

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Uncorrected hearing loss

Uncorrected hearing loss

Uncorrected Hearing Loss can have a more negative impact on the quality of life then obesity, diabetes, strokes or even cancer. Yet according to an AARP survey, more people report having gotten colonoscopies than hearing tests.

Hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of dementia, falls and depression. It is also a serious contributing factor to social isolation and loneliness and has been linked to poorer job performance and lower salaries, as well.

Why are people so reluctant to get their hearing checked or to treat hearing disorders? Because unlike many serious and potentially fatal ailments, hearing loss carries with it the stigma of being old. It’s true that hearing diminishes with age. Nearly 30 percent of people in their 50s suffer from hearing loss. For people in their 60s, it’s 45 percent. And for those in their 70s, more than two-thirds have a significant hearing loss.

But it doesn’t only affect older people. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss. And that number is increasing. Boomers had their rock concerts, and millennials have their earbuds. So the impact of hearing damage will likely grow.

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Hearing loss: why is it so misunderstood?

Why Hearing Loss is so Misunderstood?

Your 40’s – hearing loss happens gradually

The reason hearing loss is misunderstood is because it happens so gradually in our lives. The aging process begins to change our hearing in and around our forties. It is so subtle that day after day we do not notice the difference. We wake up every morning, and we hear the same as we did yesterday. We do not believe that anything has changed.

Your 50’s – hearing becomes more difficult

By the time we are 55, we start to notice that it becomes a little more difficult when there are three or four people speaking around us, but we figure it is only the circumstances. In actuality it is a little bit of background noise that is causing the problem. Perhaps, the music is playing a bit too loud even though it did not affect us in our twenties or thirties. Now in our fifties it is, and we point to the circumstances that we are in, not that we have a hearing loss.

Your 60’s – high frequencies are starting to be missed

By the time we are 65, we are beginning to miss parts of speech. High frequencies, where the consonant sounds are, are starting to be missed. People begin to sound like they mumble because we only hear the vowels or they become dominant in the conversation. Over time, background noise, which are low frequencies, begin to dominate our listening environment.

Again, we believe it is only the circumstance. We believe that people do not speak clearly or there is too much noise going on in the background. This is what makes it difficult for us to understand the conversation, or so we believe. We think that we hear just the same today as yesterday, because we have noticed no real change in the last twenty years. Because hearing loss is so gradual, few notice the changes taking place each and every day.

In our twenties, thirties, and forties, long and full conversations were an everyday thing. We could have a conversation while actually doing things. We could move around the kitchen and get things done and still have a deep and meaningful conversation because it was easy to hear and understand all the speech.

What tends to happen when our hearing begins to fail is we begin to misunderstand the subtleties in speech. As we age those subtleties really become a problem as we are now missing certain consonants in the words which make people sound like they mumble. We go from having deep and meaningful conversations to having shorter and less meaningful conversations; and it puts a strain on our relationships. We start to wonder if there is something wrong with the relationship. When it is really that we are losing the ability to have long conversations.

In relationships, with a hearing loss that is not understood, over time those easy, fluid, and wonderful conversations we used to have start to become shortened. Often, someone will start to wonder what happened to their relationship. We used to talk so much and have great communication. It feels like we are falling out of love. It feels like our connection is not there anymore. What is not being recognized is that it is not the relationship. It is the hearing loss that is impacting the relationship.

My message to you is…. get your hearing checked on a regular basis. Your relationships with your spouse, mate grandchildren, children, and friends are worth it! You are worth it! Get your hearing checked.

Request a free hearing screening or Take our online hearing test

Our brain and how we hear.

Hearing loss is a gradual process and usually happens over a period of years. It is sneaky and we often don’t realize how far it has gone until it has gotten greater than a mild loss. The leading causes of hearing loss are ageing and excessive and prolonged exposure to noise; however, there are many other reasons that could cause a hearing loss.

Most people suffer from the sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there is actual nerve damage which is located in the inner ear. Whether the nerves have bent or broken, damaged nerves are not stimulated by sound around you and so they don’t send a signal to the brain. When the hearing centre of the brain is not stimulated, it leads to shrinkage of brain tissue. When the nerves are not being stimulated by sounds around you it leads to auditory deprivation.

Nerve damage is not reversible. However, by using hearing aids, we can change the way sound is sent into the ear and on to the brain where hearing actually happens and this can improve the quality of our hearing. Doing this can significantly slow the progression of damage that causes hearing loss. It also means reactivating the hearing centers in the brain, keeping it active and reducing or stopping the shrinkage of the tissue.

Request a free hearing screening or Take our online hearing test