How are we able to hear in difficult listening situations?
Posted on Dec 2, 2015
Have you ever wondered how in a crowded room with many people talking at once, you are still able to hear if someone calls out your name? The ability to hear in difficult listening situations is the result of a careful marriage between our ears and brain, which has long intrigued researchers.
Now, a new study from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine is examining the mechanisms behind this effect.
Prioritising the sound landscape
In order to make sense of any given listening situation, our brain must distinguish which sounds are, in fact, relevant to us. The University's research discovered that a "stimulus-specific adaptation" could be a key piece in the puzzle of how this process works.
"It's really important to understand the mechanisms underlying these basic auditory processes, given how much we depend on them in everyday life,"1 says study author Dr Maria N. Geffen.
Stimulus-specific adaptation, which also influences other senses, actively reduces our brain's response to what it perceives to be expected sounds. This means we are extra sensitive to unexpected, potentially significant sounds, such as the screech of car brakes or someone calling our name.
"In everyday conversations, you want to be able to carry on a discussion, yet simultaneously perceive when someone else calls your name," Dr Geffen explains.
However, for people with hearing loss, it can become increasingly difficult to navigate everyday listening situations, with some sounds being lost in background noise. Fortunately, there are solutions available in the form of hearing devices, such as those available from HEARINGLife.
To find out more, you can click here or call 18000 340 631 to request a no cost* hearing check appointment with your local HEARINGLife clinic.
1University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine Researchers Discover Hidden Brain Pathways Crucial to Communication. Accessed November 25, 2015.