The ability to hear is important to just about all living creatures; even though scientists have discovered many species of blind fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, no deaf vertebrate species have been identified. That said, hearing doesn’t necessarily call for ears. Only vertebrate animals have ears, whereas invertebrate animals utilize various other sense organs in order to recognize the vibrations we know as audio waves. In the case of insects, they have extremely sensitive tympanal organs which offer excellent hearing capabilities. Certain fly species can locate their prey exclusively via its song from a substantial distance. Spiders and cockroaches have tiny hairs on their legs that they use to pick up sounds, and caterpillars have similar sound-receiving hairs on their bodies. One species known for its acute hearing is the elephant. Elephants have large ears, but they can also hear through their feet. This form of hearing is so acute that elephants can detect the sound of thunderstorms or the low-frequency call of other elephants coming from many kilometers away.
Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD, is a hearing disorder in which the trouble lies not with the ears, but with the brain. The person with CAPD hears sounds correctly but something adversely affects the way their brain recognizes and interprets the sounds, especially the sounds associated with speech. That’s why the disorder is sometimes summarized as an ear-brain coordination problem. Central Auditory Processing Disorder is a condition that afflicts an estimated 2% to 5% of children of school age, and as many as 50% of children who have been diagnosed as having a learning disability. Children with CAPD often fail to recognize subtle differences between the sounds of different words, even though the words are clear and loud enough for them to hear. This inability to understand words often becomes worse in noisy environments, but is not as present in quiet environments.
As hearing professionals, one of the sometimes frustrating things we encounter in our practice is that the issues that have caused hearing problems in our patients cannot be reversed. For example, one of the extremely common causes of hearing loss is damage to the tiny, sensitive hair cells that line the inner ear and vibrate in response to sound. What we think of as hearing are the translations of these vibrations into electrical impulses which are sent to and interpreted in the brain.
To begin with an attempt at humor, the “speech banana” isn’t a reference to the old skit, “Speak up…I can’t hear you…I’ve got a banana in my ear.” The “speech banana” is a distinctive design appearing on an audiogram. In an audiogram, you usually see the frequency (measured in Hertz) on the x axis, and the loudness (measured in Decibels) on the y axis. The expression ‘speech banana’ comes from the banana-shaped cluster of points on the audiogram that arises when human language is analyzed. The spoken sounds of most of the letters of the alphabet together with the letter combinations ch, sh, th and ng all fall within this area.
It has long been acknowledged that there are strong connections between sound, music, emotion, and memory, and that our personal experiences and tendencies determine the type and intensity of emotional response we have to specific sounds. As an example, research has revealed these widespread associations between certain sounds and emotions:
- February 23, 2022
- Anatomy & Physiology, Common Conditions of the Ear, Preventative Care
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The thing about hearing loss is that it’s easy to disregard. You can deny it for years, compensating for poor hearing by turning up the volume on your phone or TV and pressuring people to repeat themselves. But in addition to the stress this places on personal relationships, there are additional, concealed consequences of untreated hearing loss that are not as obvious but more concerning. Below are six potential consequences of untreated hearing loss.
What do the greatest horror movies all have in common? They all have memorable soundtracks that elicit an instantaneous sense of terror. In fact, if you view the films without any sound, they become a lot less scary. But what is it regarding the music that makes it terrifying? More specifically, if sounds are simply vibrations in the air, what is it about our biology that causes us to respond with fear?
Thanksgiving is the optimal opportunity to reflect on all the things we have the tendency to take for granted throughout the year. And that includes our capacity to hear. While sight, smell, and taste are at the forefront of our mind during the holidays, hearing generally takes a back seat—that is, until we start paying better attention. To fully enjoy the holiday season necessitates being fully present, and that includes being mindful of all the sounds that in general escape our full attention. The following are five sounds to be mindful of and grateful for this Thanksgiving.
It’s the New Year, which for many of us means vowing to eat better, work out more, and save more money. But we might want to add to this list the resolution to protect our hearing. In 2016, we read a large number of reports about the growing epidemic of hearing loss. The World Health Organization has warned us that billions of individuals are at risk from direct exposure to loud noise volumes at work, at home, and during leisure activities. We also discovered that even teens are at risk, as the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1990s. The bottom line is that our hearing can be injured at work, while attending live shows, and even at home via the use of earbuds and headphones played at excessive volumes. For 2017, let’s all start off on the right track by making some basic resolutions to protect and conserve our hearing health.
Hearing loss is a common problem in this country that affects 48 million people in the U.S., or, around 20 percent of the entire population. The chances you know someone who has hearing loss are around 1 in 5. For many individuals, hearing loss is due to repeated exposure to loud sounds or simply the consequences of aging. For some individuals, though, hearing loss is a sign of a less common condition. Consider six poorly understood hearing and balance disorders you should know more about.