The human ear is a fascinating subject, an infinitely intricate design. Our hearing plays an enormous role in how we perceive the world, enabling us to communicate through speech and music and signaling to us signs of distress or joy. Even hearing simple things like the birds singing or a clock ticking completes the picture of the world around us. However, there’s more to hearing than meets the eye. The brain is a vital part of how we can hear, more than we may have realized.
The Connection between Your Ear and Your Brain
The human ear, while complex in itself, is but the mechanism that transfers sound to the brain. First, after sound waves enter through the ossicles, three minuscule bones in the inner ear, they travel through the cochlea, a snail-shaped organ that contains microscopic hairs that dance according to the waves they feel. Within the cochlea, sound waves turn into electric pulses that on to the auditory nerves leading to the brain. The auditory nerves, which can be split into three parts, interpret speech, sounds, pitch, volume, rhythm, harmony, and melody, integrating them all into one cohesive orchestration.
How the Brain Interprets Sounds
Different parts of the brain signal various aspects of sounds we hear. For example, the thalamus discerns whether or not the sound we hear is a distress signal or not. If so, it triggers a hormonal response to prep us for fight or flight. The auditory cortex, meanwhile, enables us to communicate with others at a conversation level. It breaks speech down even into syllables so we can understand clearly. The auditory cortex also identifies tone so we can tell the difference in people’s voices and the sounds of various musical instruments. Lastly, the prefrontal cortex fits sound into context with sight, such as facial expression. Undoubtedly, the brain’s hearing processes are very complex.
The Brain and Age-Related Hearing Loss
The brain is at risk of suffering when our ears can no longer function as well as they used to. Noise-induced hearing loss damages the tiny hairs in the cochlea, and some loud noises may also burn out synapses that connect speech sounds to the brain. Age-related hearing loss is another common phenomenon, in which the ears lose some functionality. The result of the lost connection between the ears and the brain may be a loss of brain functionality. Without practice, the brain will lose its ability to hear over time as well. That is why hearing aids are invaluable for preserving brain health as well as one’s ability to hear.
Trust the Experts at Clarity Audiology & Hearing Solutions
Need help with your hearing? Clarity Hearing can help. Clarity Audiology & Hearing Solutions is an independently owned and operated clinic that focuses on quality of care and personalized, friendly service to the surrounding areas of Ellicott City, Catonsville, Columbia. Our Doctors of Audiology are highly trained with advanced degrees and take the time to provide the personalized care and attention that you need and deserve. We provide advanced hearing aid options that personally calibrated with cutting-edge digital technology to fit your hearing loss, your unique ear anatomy, and your individual listening needs.
Come in for a walk-in appointment on Tuesdays & Fridays from 10:00 am to 11:30 am or contact us to schedule an appointment by calling 410-698-6594 or visiting our contact page. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn for more blog posts, news, and updates!