Thursday, 07 June 2018 10:41

Do we hear with our ears or with our brains?

Written by Dr. Jennifer Donath
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Fotolia 129087144 Subscription Monthly XLWhile our ears are one of the most magnificent organs in our bodies as they collect sounds and deliver the information to the brain, it’s really our brains that interpret what all the sounds mean.  A sound is easy to process because the brain just needs to identify what the sound is coming from.  The brain simply recognizes what is familiar, such as traffic noise or a kettle whistling, and can determine how far away the sound source is.  For example, your brain knows what a dog’s bark sounds like and will also know if it is your own dog barking inside the house or the neighbor’s dog barking next door in the backyard. 

Hearing people speaking and understanding what they are saying, provided you speak the same language of course, requires the brain to process all the different combinations of vowels and consonants, rapidly changing in normal conversational speech.  Again, the ears are responsible for delivering all the information, but it is the brain that truly makes sense of it all.  Hence, we hear with our brains.

If ten trains were filled with cargo but only half of them arrived at the final destination because train tracks were missing, this may cause some problems for all the workers at the train station as they scramble to figure out what to do.  This is what the brain experiences when there is hearing loss.  “Um, excuse me, what did you say?”  “huh, what was that again?  “I hear you, but I don’t understand”?  

While it’s true we hear with our brains, it’s important to ensure that the ears do their jobs by delivering all the information so the brain can process speech.  You may question why recent studies have found a direct correlation to untreated hearing loss and dementia.  The brain works the best when stimulated, which is why hearing aids are good for your ears, hearing nerve, and brain. 

Understanding how your hearing aids connect to your smartphone.

If you have hearing aids with updated technology, you can connect the hearing aids with your iPhone or Android phone.  The hearing aids are paired through Bluetooth which allows your phone to be used as a remote control for your hearing aids.  Another benefit, if you have an iPhone, is to hear your phone calls directly through your hearing aids (on both sides) without you having to hold the phone up to your ear.  This is called streaming.  You can change the volume, see how much battery life is in your hearing aid batteries, and best of all, you can find your hearing aids if you lose them. 

There are more functions and controls if you are the type of person who likes to make changes and manipulate the sound.  While the hearing aids can be completely automatic so you do not have to change a thing, having a visual reference on your phone regarding battery strength can be very helpful.  Your audiologist will pair the hearing aids for you and will teach you all you need to know. 

For those wearing hearing aids and are already connected to your smartphone, read the Hearing Aids Paired to Smartphones blog for useful tips.

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