There are many mysteries left to discover about our auditory system. Key among these mysteries is its capacity to adapt over time, which generally occurs as a response to our environment. As sounds enter our outer ear, pass through the cochlear and are transmitted to our brain, they have the power to influence our auditory perception. New research in this arena suggests that this extends to social sounds. A recent study conducted by a research team at Georgia State University indicates that exposure to speech sounds can actually improve our hearing ability.
Using green tree frogs, which have relatively simple forms of communication, the researchers examined the consequences of social isolation on sound perception. For 10 consecutive nights, two groups of frogs, a control group and test group, were subjected to varying sounds. While the control group heard a series of random sounds, the test group heard socially important sounds—their species’ calls—just as they would in the wild.
Just as human rely on speech, the species-specific calls have great significance to the green tree frog, as they facilitate social behavior. When the test group was exposed to these socially meaningful calls, they were shown to be more sensitive to these sounds than the control group.
The study suggests that more social interaction increases your capacity to understand social sounds. It also shows that these sounds can physically modify the ear to increase sensitivity, though the precise location of this change is unknown.
The research has substantial implications for socially isolated humans, such as individuals in nursing homes and prisoners, who are likely to communicate less frequently. It could also have importance for the hearing impaired community as well, who sometimes struggle to hear speech frequencies.
Our ability to hear keeps us connected to the world around, so the maintenance of our auditory system should be a priority. If you don’t have hearing loss, take precautions to protect your hearing ability through the use of hearing protection and annual hearing tests. If you are experiencing some degree of hearing loss, the use of hearing aids can help preserve your auditory function. To schedule a consultation with a professional audiologist in San Diego, CA, contact our team today. As experts in hearing health, our audiology doctors provide a full range of hearing services, including comprehensive evaluations, hearing aid fittings and hearing aid repair. Learn more about hearing loss treatments by calling (858) 279-3277