Have you ever thought about how many pleasurable sounds you are missing because of hearing loss?
We are not even talking about vital sounds that warn us of impending dangers – sirens, street noise or honking cars. Rather, we are referring to sounds that lift our spirits and make us happy – a child’s laughter, chirping of the bird in your backyard, and last (but certainly not least), music!
Remember how you felt (in the days when you could actually hear and enjoy music) when you heard the rousing crescendo or softly melodious sounds of your favorite piano concerto or maybe a song you are particularly fond of? If those sounds elicited emotions beyond words, you are not alone; recent research shows that music- even unfamiliar - strikes an emotional chord in people of vastly different nationalities and cultures.
Ear for music
With an estimated 200,000 members, the Mafa are the largest of 14 ethnic groups inhabiting the far reaches of northern Mandara Mountains in Africa’s Northern Cameroon. With no electricity or other perks of modern life, it is safe to assume the Mafa don’t have latest iPods or other technologically advanced personal stereo devices.
And yet, these isolated and primitive (by Western standards) people respond to music in much the same way people in the “civilized” world do.
Scientists from Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany traveled to Cameroon to see how the Mafa would react to Western – and thus unfamiliar to them – music. On sun-powered CDs, tribe members listened to computer-generated Western piano music with different tempos, pitch range, and rhythm.
At the same time, a group of Westerners unfamiliar with African music listened to traditional Mafa tunes.
The researchers found that both groups, each coming from such disparate geographical locations, cultures and heritages, responded to the same musical passages with three basic emotions: happiness, sadness and fear.
The way we respond to music, it seems, is truly universal.
The “feel good” factor
There is even more scientific data to suggest a link between music and emotions. A recent study carried out at Goldsmiths, University of London, showed that emotional evaluation of visual stimuli can be influenced by listening to music, even briefly.
Volunteers heard a 15-second musical excerpt and then judged the emotional content of a face. The researchers discovered that hearing happy tunes significantly enhanced the perceived happiness of a face. Furthermore, the study found that listening to music could bring about changes in the brain activation patterns, which we usually can’t consciously control.
And closer to home, the National Institutes of Health says that beyond the purely emotional factor, music can also considerably reduce our stress and pain levels.
So what conclusions can we draw from these experiments? The answer is clear: to be able to fully benefit from music’s curative powers and a “feel-good” factor, we must first be able to hear it.
The day the music died
We don’t mean to be dramatic here, but let’s go back to what we just said: music can only be enjoyed if it can be heard. If it’s not heard – either because you have an undetected hearing loss or one that is not being treated – you are missing out on a truly emotional experience.
There are an estimated 31.5 million Americans (more than 10 percent of the population) who have hearing loss. Unfortunately, only about 24 percent wear hearing aids – which means that far too many people cannot enjoy the benefits of music.
And music is only one pleasurable experience these folks are missing due to untreated hearing los. They are also unable to effectively communicate and interact with family, friends, and co-workers, and that – studies tell us – often leads to a sense of isolation and depression.
|Hear well, feel well - just dance!|
Time to turn on (and hear) the music
Not every medical condition can be treated as easily as hearing loss. That’s the good news.
If you have not yet been tested or fitted with spiffy new digital hearing aids by a hearing care professional, what are you waiting for?
Are you, by any chance, one of those people who live in perpetual denial, convincing themselves and others that you hear just fine, even though everyone around you has to shout to be heard?
Or perhaps you are aware of your hearing loss but think you can’t afford a hearing aid, which costs between $1,000 and $4.000, and is not covered by either Medicare or most private plans?
That may seem like a valid reason not to purchase hearing aids, especially in times of recession. However, if you sit down and crunch the numbers, you will see that, given a hearing aid’s average life span of three to five years, this device on average will cost you a mere $3 a day - a true bargain and a solid investment in low economical times.
Isn’t this a fair price to pay for the pleasure of hearing your favorite music (and having all those emotions flowing through your body), not to mention the joy of being able to hear, understand and talk to all the people in your life?
Time to Make a Change
There has been a lot of change in hearing aid technology through the years. Digital hearing aids have become quite sophisticated, even for music lovers. Hearing aid wearers can enjoy the quality of music like they once did with today’s hearing aids, thanks to sophisticated digital sound processing algorithms that help maintain the natural sound quality for both speech and music.
Visit a hearing care professional today, make that change and discover your love for music all over again.
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