The Long Journey of Hearing
We all take our hearing for granted, even though it is actually a very complex procedure that takes place in a matter of split seconds. The brain is responsible for deciphering the sound signals sent by the ears, and it regulates the amount of incoming sound signals each and every moment to prevent sensory overload.
You may not realize this, but hearing actually takes place in the brain! Our brain has developed a detailed process of filtering out miscellaneous sounds through millennia. If you want to find out how this magical process of filtering sounds works, read on.
Our ears have the simple job of conveying sound signals which are then transmitted to the brain as electrical impulses through the cochlea. After this point, the brain completely takes over the process of hearing and analyzes each impulse to make sense of it. It uses two basic forms of signals which can be categorized under pitch (high or low frequency sounds) and volume (how amplified these sounds are).
After registering the sounds received, the brain collaborates with previously stored sound patterns within the memory bank. This enables the brain to decide whether the sound is important or can be dismissed. Generally speaking, lower pitched sounds such as the hum of a fan tend to be dismissed, while higher pitched sounds such as the cry of a baby or a siren tend to be recognized as important signals.
Speech can be trickier to decipher, since a normal human voice is generally not too high pitched. This process becomes even trickier if you have hearing loss, since the brain has trouble deciding whether the sound received is important or not, since not all the sound impulses are present consistently.
During sleep, the auditory center tunes out majority of all the sound signals entering the ears. This is done in order to help our body and our mind get some rest and rejuvenation. Only sudden loud or shrill noises can be strong enough to wake us from our sleep.
When hearing loss comes into play, the brain loses its ability to make out the difference between important and unimportant noises, and tends to work harder to make up for the lack of auditory information. This can cause mental fatigue and even lead to conditions like tinnitus.
Hearing loss can give rise to several other health concerns, such as heart disease, dementia, and even diabetes. This is why it is important to get your hearing examined by a hearing care professional at the earliest signs of hearing loss, so that your brain can continue to protect you for all your days to come.