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Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2016

Want to hear better? Get out more!

People at bar

A recent study shows that you can improve your hearing skills by being more social and engaging with more people. For some time, scientist have known the importance of social interaction for mood and happiness. Well, it turns out that this isn't just good for your emotional state, and your love life, but your hearing too.

A recent study at Georgia State University shows that hearing is modifiable and through repeated exposure can be fine tuned to pick up subtle differences in speech.

Speech is the verbal expression of language and includes the way sounds and words are formed or articulated. Whereas language refers to the entire system of expressing and receiving information in a way that's meaningful. It's understanding and being understood through communication — verbal, nonverbal, and written.

The study conducted looked at our "social vocal signals" or in other words our speech, and the way we process sounds that might fall too closely together. Sometimes one sound follows so closely behind another sound that the first sound masks the second. We've all had the experience of misunderstanding something someone said. With masking the first sound is still being processed by the ear, so the second sound is missed or mistaken. It happens to everyone, but for people with hearing loss the issue is compounded by hearing difficulties. That's not to say that people with hearing loss can't improve their ability to discern sounds by being more socially active. In fact, listening to complex music or playing music has already been shown to improve your ability to pick out sounds and therefore your ability to understand sounds.

It was Nina Kraus of Northwestern University who taught us, "The sounds of our lives change our brain.” And that sound and the presence of musical sounds can heal and support our mental and physical brain health. In fact, she also stated, "If you continue to play music throughout your life, we see a biologically younger brain."

So this study at Georgia State University conducted by Walter Wilczynski, a professor in the Neuroscience Institute, confirms that it's not just listening to music but listening to others that can improve hearing. The results as stated by Professor Wilczynski and reported on by Science Daily found, "What we find is that if they've had a lot of social stimulation, through their socially meaningful calls, the forward masking is reduced."

"Socially meaningful calls," refers to the test subjects--frogs-- but by transferring the results to the human world, we learn that by going out more, challenging yourself to interact and hear more, you get better at listening. Unfortunately, hearing loss sometimes leads people to withdraw from the world and activities they once enjoyed.

Overcoming this tendency to withdraw by seeking out activity can be helpful to lessen isolation and aid in dealing with stress and depression. But feeling comfortable going out also depends highly on your ability to hear properly. Regular visits to your hearing health provider, using ear plugs to protect your ears, eating right, and correcting deficits in your hearing are all ways that you can care for your ears. Taking care of your ears is also one of the most effective ways to keep yourself engaged and social as you age!

If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

Related Topics of Interest

Can Sounds Support Brain Health?

Can Music Ward Off Hearing Loss?

Another way to strengthen hearing is to work out your ears. Phonak has The Listening Room page that is dedicated to helping train people with hearing loss to better listen.

References
Georgia State University. "Socially meaningful sounds can change ear, improve hearing, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160425100539.htm (accessed April 28, 2016).

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