What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Editor's note: In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we have updated and are re-publishing this timely article about all the things we can be thankful for today and every day when it comes to hearing health. Gratitude is contagious, so enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday!
Hearing isn’t a sense that’s accomplished with your ears alone. To hear well, you use your ears and your brain, even your eyes and your hands at times. When you think about it, no matter how well your auditory system works there’s a lot more that goes into hearing than meets the, well, eye — to coin a phrase. A person who hears may not be listening, and someone who can’t hear at all may be the most attentive person in the group.
So — whether your natural sense of hearing borders on that of superhuman, or you use manmade devices to enhance your hearing, or you belong to the robust Deaf community, give thanks. There are a million reasons to be thankful for hearing. Share yours with us using the hashtags #thankfulforhearing, #thankfulforhearingaids or #thankfulforsignlanguage.
Thankful for hearing
If you were born a hearing person and still hear well, take a moment to be grateful for what your auditory system is providing. As our ears collect noise and funnel it to the inner ear, sensory hair cells are hard at work translating it into electrical impulses to send along the auditory nerve. Once it reaches our brain, the auditory cortex breaks it up into different parts for processing. Faster than you can read this sentence, your brain sends decoded sound through a series of pathways. You hear someone speak and you respond. You hear music and begin to hum. You hear the telephone ring and decide whether or not to answer.
Your ears are so sophisticated, they even take on different roles in the hearing process. Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles studied hearing in 3,000 newborns. They discovered that your right ear is more sensitive to music and song, while your left ear excels at understanding speech.
Musicians may have an even greater reason to be thankful for hearing. Studies by Nina Kraus, who directs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, show that musical training improves hearing by increasing the ability to understand speech in noisy rooms and help children who are struggling with language development.
When it’s functioning properly, our auditory system enhances our quality of life — sometimes in ways we don’t even realize. Tell us, what makes you #thankfulforhearing?
Thankful for hearing aids
It wasn’t long ago that hearing health professionals carried screwdrivers in their pockets so they could adjust their patients’ hearing devices. Today, professionals and patients alike enjoy a digital product which can be programmed with a computer and adjusted for different listening environments with the patient’s own smart phone.
While scientists haven’t been able to exactly replicate the human auditory system yet, they are coming closer. Today’s hearing aids have built-in directional microphones which tells the brain where sound is coming from so the user knows what to focus on. Enhanced technology also helps the user distinguish speech from other background noise – a big improvement over older models which amplified all sound the same way. Speaking of improvements, hearing aid manufacturers have created hearing aids so small, they are virtually undetectable. And much like eyeglasses, hearing aid wearers can choose from a variety of colors and accessories designed to personalize their devices.
Yet improvements in technology and aesthetics pale in comparison to the health benefits hearing aid users enjoy, specifically a better quality of life and lower risks of developing dementia or becoming socially isolated and depressed.
Whether you’re anticipating being better able to understand and participate in conversations during family holiday gatherings, or simply the ability to hear the birds sing in the morning, tell us, why are you #thankfulforhearingaids?
Thankful for sign language
Anyone who has been on the receiving end of Mom’s evil eye knows there’s a lot to be said for body language. Psychologists agree. In a 2012 article in Psychology Today, author Leonard Mlodinow discusses how “nonverbal communication forms a social language that is in many ways richer and more fundamental than our words” and how nonverbal abilities play “a significant role in the perception of a person’s warmth, credibility and persuasive power.”
This isn’t any news to the Deaf community, whose members use a combination of sign language and gestures to communicate richly, complete with dialect and intonations. Sign language emphasizes hands, faces, bodies and eyes, meaning a person must be totally immersed in the conversation in order to communicate effectively. Although their experiences are different than the hearing population, the Deaf are wonderful storytellers and enjoy musical beats and lyrics as passionately as any other.
Many parents have discovered the benefits of teaching sign language to their infants, regardless of their ability to hear. That’s because all babies use their hands to communicate before they can speak. In fact, research shows the babies can learn to communicate using sign language much earlier than they begin to speak. According to popular baby sign language websites, babies as young as six months old can learn sign language to communicate when they are hungry, too cold or just need a hug.
In addition to reducing the frustration of trying to decipher a baby’s cry, studies also show that knowing sign language helps children speak earlier, achieve better grades in school and develop a larger vocabulary. Psychological research on baby sign language confirms that signing not only boosts vocabulary, it also reduces temper tantrums and improves the relationship between parent and child.
If you are a proud member of the Deaf community or a hearing person who signs, tell us, why are you #thankfulforsignlanguage?
Thankful for our readers
We hope you’ll take a moment and let us know why you are thankful for hearing, or hearing aids or sign language this season. And while we have your attention, please know we are thankful for you. Healthy Hearing’s goal is to educate you about hearing loss and hearing aids and encourage you to seek help from a hearing healthcare professional. Your input is always welcome, always valuable and always appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving.