Posted on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Your Ears Help You Think

For a long time the ears have gotten short changed. They decode the environment in a hundred different subtle ways and the most attention we give to them is a Q-tip. But it turns out that’s a mistake. That’s because, what’s between your ears depends a lot on your ears. Your ears help you think.

The assumption that your ears are only good for resting your glasses on or decorating with dangly earrings has cost many Americans when it comes to hearing health. It turns out that the ears not only keep people socially and emotionally engaged with others—resulting in higher self-esteem and less anxiety—they are also busy making it easier to think.

It’s been known for some time that hearing loss can impact brain function—denying sound to a region of the brain that needs sound stimulation is obviously going to cause a problem. But, it turns out, that’s not the only way your poor ignored ears support your brain. In a new study titled, Hearing loss and perceptual effort: Downstream effects on older adults’ memory for speech, researchers discovered people with hearing loss had a harder time remembering words than people without hearing loss. Two groups of people were tested, those with hearing loss and those without. They were each given a series of words to recall. It turns out, “the poor-hearing group recalled significantly fewer of the nonfinal words than did the better hearing group.” Researchers came up with the idea that the failure to remember words in the hearing loss group was due to the extra effort these poeple had to expend on hearing.

Researchers then coined the term an effortless hypothesis. It is thought that this result happened because, “…the extra effort that a hearing-impaired listener must expend to…[comprehend]…comes at the cost of processing resources that might otherwise be available for encoding the speech content in memory.” In other words, healthy hearing makes it easier for us to think, because it reduces effort in hearing and frees up that brain space to do other things, like think.

So the next time you have trouble hearing someone, you might want to take a moment to think about how that is affecting you. It’s not just your ears. Ignoring your hearing health impacts your whole body.

Treating hearing loss has been shown to support a more positive, engaged, and active lifestyle and it turns out it can even make thinking easier! If you'd like to find out more about what hearing aids can do to help you, visit your hearing health provider. 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!

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