Hearing and the brain go together like Sonny and Cher, each playing their own role in a beautiful sound.
In celebration of Brain Awareness Week, we wanted to highlight the importance of how our brains and ears work together to help us communicate and enjoy everyday luxuries, like listening to music. Because not only is our brain a key player in our ability to hear, but hearing has a profound effect on the way our brain functions as we age.
A lot has to happen for us to hear. In order for you to hear something as simple as a dog barking outside, sound waves have to travel into your ear canal to your eardrum. The eardrum then passes vibrations through our middle ear bones to the inner ear (the cochlea), where thousands of tiny hair cells live. These hair cells translate the vibrations into electrical impulses, which make their way to the brain through the auditory nerve. That’s where the magic happens — your brain tells you a sound is taking place, and what that sound is.
Hearing is something many of us take for granted, but it’s something that, when taken care of, can have a profound effect on our long-term brain health. For example, degenerative brain diseases like dementia can be prevented through treating poor hearing early on. This is because when we’re struggling to hear, our brain has to work harder, meaning it doesn’t have a lot of energy left for things like focus and memory retention. When hearing loss is treated with hearing aids and other devices, however, it frees up resources in the brain to allow it to function properly.
In fact, using hearing aids to help manage hearing loss can reduce the chances of dementia by 9%. Brain Awareness Week is the perfect opportunity for us to bring untreated hearing loss to the forefront, and its potentially devastating effects on brain health as we age. It’s also a way for us to appreciate the harmony between our brain and the tiny organs in our ears that allow us to hear songs like I Got You, Babe. Like Sonny and Cher, the brain and inner ear make a great duo!
Here’s a great video for Brain Awareness Week: