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Hearing Love: For Elephants it's All about Total Communication

When you think of love, when you think of solid, satisfying personal relationships, what’s the first thing you think of?

Elephants. No? Not elephants? Well, when it comes to communication, elephants actually have it down to a science – at least as far as elephant science has evolved.

Here’s the story.

Multi-Sensory Hearing

elephant

You know those big floppy ears elephants have? Well, they’ve got those ears for a reason – to better capture sounds out on the savannah. Sounds of danger. Cries for a little assistance from the baby that’s fallen behind and, yes, those big floppy ears start twitching at the sound of the elephant love call – something that sounds like a broken trumpet to human ears, but what to we know?

But here’s the interesting part. Elephant toes and trunks actually pick up “sounds” transmitted through the ground by other elephants (not exactly light on their feet) from over a mile away! It gets better. Researchers have also found in a recent study elephants have, in addition to auditory abilities, two additional sensory systems to detect a potential mates seismic activity. Yes that is true, elephants not only product audible mating calls but also seismic calls (use of vibration in the ground).

One system is bone conduction, in which the vibrations travel from the toe tips into the foot bones, then up the leg and into the middle ear. The other, somatosensory reception, involves vibration-sensitive cells in the bottom of the foot that send signals to the brain via nerves.

Not only can an elephant hear through seismic activity created by another elephant, one elephant can tell, just by the vibrations, whether the plodding elephant is a friend or foe – or even, perhaps, a potential mate. Ahhh, love.

These giant creatures have developed multi-sensory hearing, hearing through the ears and through their sense of touch. This ability to communicate over long distances enables elephants to help each other out: “Hey, Bob, water hole over here” or send out warnings of trespass: “You’re on my turf, dude.”

Scientists have studied this ability to hear with the sense of touch and applied some of their findings to relationships among humans. In fact some humans also rely on bone conduction hearing due to issues with their outer or middle ears. These parts of the system are bypassed and bone conduction hearing aids actually directly stimulate the inner ear nerves by vibrating the mastoid bone behind the outer ear.

We all employ a number of senses to determine potential threats, potential love and even your spouse for life – the one who sent out signals that only you picked up. It’s so…so elephantine.

Hearing Loss and Looking For Love

Hearing loss, of course, affects the individual who experiences it. But losing the ability to hear – to gather information about one’s surroundings – creates problems for those who live with that individual. Your family and friends get tired of shouting at you and listening to the TV at an ear-busting volume. No offense.

The fact is, hearing loss often leads to a number of problems for the individual and for those around him or her. So, for those who’ve been putting off a hearing evaluation even though they know there’s been a loss of hearing, don’t think about yourself. Think about those with whom you live.

(Okay, think about yourself, too.)

couple on bike
Hear again and get back in the game

People who experience hearing loss often experience other conditions related to that loss of hearing. Rates of depression and even suicide increase as hearing diminishes. The reason is pretty obvious as the person who loses hearing becomes more and more isolated, removed from family, friends and even daily activities like work or a trip to the mall.

Yes, hearing loss is a bummer but it’s also a problem that can be treated rather easily. A hearing evaluation, some ear gear tuned to your specific hearing loss and, boys and girls, you’re back in the game.

The key, of course, is to take the first step. And if your depression and isolation aren’t motivation enough to move you to a hearing care professional, how about thinking about the people around you? Think of getting a hearing aid, actually hearing aids (two are better than one), as a courtesy.

Think of Others

Your family may be more willing to put up with your hearing loss – for a while. But because these are the people with whom you spend most of your time, shouting and waving arms is going to get tired pretty fast. Your family wants you back. The old you.

But the problems can also extend to other activities like, oh say, your job!!! If you’re the guy in the conference room cupping his ear discreetly, or the diner who keeps asking for repetition, your co-workers will quickly notice that your hearing loss has become a workplace liability. You may find you are not able to produce as much or function as well because of hearing loss.

Today’s hearing aid technology is so far ahead of where it was just 5 years ago. Hearing aids are digital. What does being digital mean? It means intelligent sound processing to provide a natural sound, wearing comfort, a basketful of features and complete discretion.

It’s your choice.

Like elephants, we all employ multi-sensory hearing. We can feel the floor vibrate when someone walks down the stairs or enters the room. We use other senses to gather information, better positioning ourselves to see the speaker’s lips for visual clues to what’s being said. But adapting to hearing loss doesn’t mitigate hearing loss.

The use of hearing aids does. So, the next time you think about your hearing loss and its impact on you, your loved ones and coworkers, think of the elephants using all sensory systems available to find their loved ones.

First step - have your hearing evaluated.

Oh, and remember – an elephant never forgets. Neither should you.

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