18 Apr We don't hear with our ears, we hear with our brain.
Ears often get the bad reputation when it comes to hearing. However, the ears just deliver the appropriate sound signals to the auditory portions of the brain. It is up to the brain to make a coherent message with those sound signals; this is called auditory processing.
Auditory processing is a natural process of taking in sound through the ear and having it travel to the auditory and language portions of the brain to be interpreted. Auditory processing depends on the signal being delivered with fidelity (job of the ear), and the brain being able to process those signals. Auditory processing is “what our brain does with what the ear hears”(Katz). Sometimes, people can have a reduction in their brain’s efficiency at dealing with those sound signals, even if they are delivered perfectly from the ear to the brain. When one is faced with a reduction in auditory processing capabilities, their ears can pick up the sounds, words, etc., but his or her brain is not able to process the sounds properly– the auditory information becomes jumbled up or confused and therefore, misunderstood.
A reduction in auditory processing can be seen due to age-related changes in the auditory system, untreated hearing loss leading to auditory deprivation, developmental changes in children, structural abnormalities in the auditory system, and numerous other causes.
For adults with normal hearing, if there is an underlying change in the auditory processing, this can often lead to frustration as they can hear, but not understand the message. For adults with hearing loss, even with appropriate amplification, if there is some degree of processing deficit, other options may need to be explored to improve their outcomes.
In general, early intervention with hearing loss is key to managing the brain’s role in hearing. We want to keep the brain stimulated, active, and interested in its auditory surroundings, so those brain pathways stay strong. If you have even a mild hearing loss, the brain pathways are not receiving adequate stimulation, and this can cause long term deficits in your auditory processing capabilities.
If you’d like more information on the role of the brain in hearing, don’t hesitate to arrange an appointment with one of our audiologists.