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Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Can Sounds Support Brain Health?

musical instrument

If you've ever spent any time on Youtube looking for relaxing music, you've probably come across binaural beats and alpha wave music that is supposed to do everything from open your third eye to making you a better, more efficient student. Okay, yeah, I'm listening to some right now. Although the jury is still out on what, if anything, these musical elixirs actually do, there is new research suggesting sound can help increase brain health.

There is no arguing that sound waves can be used to help treat medical conditions. Just ask Dr Amgad Rezk of RMIT who, as reported on in Science Daily, discovered a new kind of sound wave that was, "....a real game changer for stem cell treatment in the lungs." As he describes it this treatment is, "...basically 'yelling' at the liquid so it vibrates, breaking it down into vapour."

That's pretty cool. But can sound help other parts of the body, even the brains of people with average hearing or someone with hearing loss? Well, according to Nina Kraus of Northwestern University, it can. In order to tell how exactly music and sound works in the brain, Nina Kraus needed to invent a new way to measure activity inside the listening brain. Through her research she figured out how to listen to how the brain hears. In fact, she was able to listen to how the brain works with "microsecond precision." According to her latest findings, reported on in Hearing Review, "The sounds of our lives change our brain.” Here is her speech from the Falling Walls convention that explains her research:

This isn't the first that PHB has run across the fascinating research by Nina Kraus and team. Back in 2011, we explored her research on how listening to music might help with certain aspects of hearing loss. And we reported on her research that showed music could help children with learning difficulties. All of this research combines to show us not just how important music is in our lives, indeed in our bodies, but how sound and the presence of musical sounds can heal and support our mental and physical brain health. In fact, as was pointed out in her speech, "If you continue to play music throughout your life, we see a biologically younger brain."

Not only do the sounds of our lives change our brains but the presence of complex and musical sounds can actually enhance the way our brains work. That's because listening to music might seem like a no brainer, but it's actually a complicated process that strengthens the brain. As we know, not all sounds are created equal. Listening to music is good. Playing music is better. And the more complex a piece of music, like Mozart, the more our brains work to decipher or interpret sounds. Still listening or playing any music is likely to support brain health--as long as the music is enjoyed at safe levels.

If you have hearing loss and are looking for ways to strengthen your listening brain, playing music is the way to go. So dust off that old clarinet! And if you have older hearing aids that don't work as well to help support this type of activity, remember that today's hearing aids have advanced enough to allow for this musical appreciation and learning, which it turns out is a kind of brain exercise. With hearing technology advances, and supporting research, music will continue to play a part in the lives of people with hearing loss.

If you'd like to learn more about the latest hearing aids, please see your hearing health professional. 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!

References

RMIT University. "Researchers ride new sound wave to health discovery: New class of sound wave could lead to revolution in stem cell therapy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160107094131.htm (accessed March 1, 2016).

Northwestern University. "How Certain Sounds Shape the Brain" Hearing Review. http://www.hearingreview.com/2016/02/certain-sounds-shape-brain/?ref=cl-... (accessed March 1, 2016)

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