How the brain lets us hear with both ears

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Binaural listening means "bi" for "two" and "aural" for "ears."

The human anatomy system is incredibly complex. Inside the ear, tiny hair cells turn sound vibrations into electrical impulses.

These signals are sent to the hearing nerve, which consists of 20,000 to 30,000 nerve fibers.

People collect and store sound patterns in their auditory memory throughout their lives. Sound can evoke instantaneous, automatic responses. Just think of all the memories a favorite song from "way back when" can trigger!

The brain distinguishes change in loudness, depth and origin of sound. Spatial awareness is the ability to accurately locate where sound is coming from.

Think of your ears as the mechanism that sends information to your brain. Your brain then decodes this information automatically, unconsciously and effortlessly to identify sounds and locates where they are coming from.

To interpret sounds correctly, the information your brain receives must be as accurate and as detailed as possible.

When we are listening in challenging environments, locating where sound is coming from helps us in conversation. We mentally locate sounds in specific places and then we can focus on what is important.

Sounds reach one ear fractionally faster and louder than the other - and the brain registers these subtle differences.

In the past, people with hearing loss often wore only one hearing instrument. Today, the most common approach is a balanced fitting - one in each ear.

Research shows that two instruments make speech easier to understand than only one. Just as the brain converts visual input from both eyes into one clearly defined image, it turns the input from two ears into a single sound "picture" where speech stands out more clearly.

People who wear two instruments typically experience greater ease of listening, more stamina, and better participation in social situations. Listening is more comfortable because less volume is needed when two ears are aided.

Your brain is responsible for processing everything you hear from both ears. When you choose a hearing system, remember - two ears are better than one.

Also, to maintain healthy hearing, have it checked annually by hearing specialist.

Randy W. Rose is a hearing instrument specialist and president Rose Hearing Healthcare Centers. rosehearinghealthcare centers.com

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Health & Wellness
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