If dogs can hear frequencies up to 45,000 Hz, bats up to 110,000Hz, and beluga whales up to 123,000 Hz, what makes humans so special? The normal frequency hearing range for humans is between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. The difference between humans and animals is our ability to listen, interpret, and make meaning of the sounds heard. The conversion process of sound into meaning within the brain occurs instantaneously. Douglas L. Beck, AuD and Anjali Bhatara, PhD report that “although human hearing is relatively limited, human listening is extraordinary”.
How do we maximize our auditory skills? The brain can be trained through the sounds of music. Trained musicians have wired their brain to listen for certain pitches and tones. These developed neuronal pathways from the ear to the auditory memory may “reduce the impact of age-related auditory decline”. Musicians have proven to have an enhanced working memory in auditory and visual domains. Expert musicians have played an instrument for more than 10,000 hours and perform better than non-musicians in identifying speech in noise and demonstrated better working memory and recall.
To create the biggest impact of music training on the brain children should get involved with musical instruments. Children that learn musical instruments tend to have improved processing and perception of emotion in speech. This music training can improve a child’s attentional and executive functioning skills. The brain plasticity in children is easy to manipulate through the hands on experience of music.
Long term musical training can strengthen the cognitive functions of the brain and delays negative impact of age-related effects on the brain. How else might the auditory lobe of the brain be trained? In 2011, a study reported that blind adults that did not have perfect, normal vision had better hearing. These blind adults have learned to actively listen to the sounds surrounding them. This active listening develops from the increased additional sensory input that blind adults receive compared to normal vision group tested.
The brain is a powerful tool and humans have the ability to maximize its functioning capacity. Training the brain can delay the impact of age-related brain decline. The neuroplasticity potential of the brain is almost unlimited when given the opportunities. If you’re not musically talented, ask Live Better Hearing about the LACE program we offer!
Beck, D. L., & Bhatara, A. (2012). Musicians, hearing care professionals, and neuroscientists. The Hearing Review, 19(2), 10-16.