The sense of Hearing develops early, may be well before birth. The developing baby is surrounded by sound. In fact, the natural synchrony of the two heartbeats the baby’s is twice that of the mothers is now thought to constitute our earliest appreciation of rhythm. So, experiments, showing that babies can be soothed to sleep by recreating sounds left behind in the womb, have borne this out.
New babies do not learn to recognize or to locate sound for some months. Like all information received by the senses. It must first be translated and made sense of by the brain, before it becomes meaningful. Association is all, whether it is the rattle of a spoon against a cup, earning food or the soothing words of the mother, meaning closeness security and pleasure. If a baby is not brought up in a world of sounds and more specifically words. Then he or she will fail to associate sound with meaning and may appear deafer and the age of two or three than the child whose hearing is actually impaired.
How do we hear?
Sound originates as a movement or vibration of air. Which then sets up smaller vibrations which get fainter and fainter as they move through the atmosphere. The function of the ear is so receive and transmit sound to the brain. First by amplifying the pressure of the vibrations as they travel through the ear and second by translating the vibrations into electrical nerve impulses, intelligible to the brain which then decodes them. As with sight we hear not with the ears, but with the brain.
Pitch and Loundness
Frequency of sound or pitch is measured in Hertz. One Hertz is one cycle, or vibration, per second. Middle C on the piano, for example, is 256 Hertz, or cycles per second. We all respond to certain frequencies at very subtle level. Particularly at the lower end of the scale, because they set up and generate internal rhythms in the brain. Hence ht powerful effect of meditative mantras, chanting and rock music.
The human ear starts to pick up low frequency notes at about 20 Hertz and goes on hearing successively higher notes to a level of about 20,000 Hertz. After which sounds become too high to be heard. Some animals, however, can still detect them. Silent dog whistles, for example are pitched at about 22,000 Hertz, and bats actually navigate by ultrasonic’s, emitting high pitched squeaks and finding their way by means of the echoes bouncing off obstacles.
The same principle is used for radar, depth sounders in submarines, burglar alarms and for medical canning when X-rays are unsuitable such as during pregnancy. Which sound becomes perceptible to most people? Some people with an extremely acute sense of hearing will be able to perceive sound at minus 10 decibels, but this is rare. Hearing tests work by measuring the quietest perceived sound for different frequencies.
One out of every 1,000 children is born with some degree of hearing impairment. If there is reason to suspect that the hearing might be damaged, a rudimentary test can be given at birth. All children should have a hearing test at seven months. Hearing deteriorates appreciable with age. By the age of 80, one in two people will have a moderate to severe degree of hearing loss.
This type of hearing loss is very similar in pattern to noise induced hearing loss. In fact, one study carried out in the Sudan among a people who live in a world unassailed by urban and traffic noise and who show a much sharper sense of hearing in old age. It is suggested that the hearing deterioration we normally attribute to advancing age might in part at least be noise induced.
If you suspect that your hearing is not as sharp as it was, have a hearing test. The earlier any impairment is detected the greater the chance of compensating successfully for it. Using a hearing aid takes practice and concentration as it does not just amplify speech, but all foreground and background noise as well.
Because noise is invisible and often intermittent it is very difficult to assess both in terms of what the populations as a whole finds tolerable and of what constitutes a potentially damaging source of sound. Even so it is now well recognized that exposure to excessive noise can cause irreversible loss of hearing particularly of the lower pitched sounds. How loud is too loud? If you have to raise your voice to carry on a conversation with someone three to five feet away the noise level is potentially damaging.
Looking After Your Ears?
The less you interfere with your ears, the healthier they will be. The ear is an efficient self cleansing organ. The wax inside it picks up dirt and potential irritants as they enter the ear and prevents them from travelling further down. The warmth generated at body temperature melts the wax as it accumulates so that both it and the dirt can run out of the ear quite freely.
The most you should do is to wipe the outer ear with the corner of a face cloth. Poking around with a finger or any type of instrument will tend to push the wax further down towards the eardrum. Where it is less accessible and more likely to harden and affect your hearing.
If you suspect that an excessive accumulation of wax is affecting your hearing then to see your doctor who will arrange to syringe your ears. This is done by directing a jet of water at the eardrum not at the wax so that the wax is pushed out from the inside. If you have any history of trouble with your eardrum, you should not have your ears syringed your doctor will use an alternative method.
Earache is usually referred pain and often accompanies dental problems. These should be your first ground for suspicion when or if it strikes. If taking a painkiller every few hours does not help the problem, do not resort to homespun remedies, go to see your doctor or dentist.
Having your ears pierced is a perfectly safe procedure as long as it is carried out under sterile conditions. Stud sleepers are initially preferable to ring sleepers, as the dirt on your fingers may cling to the ring ad infect the ears as you turn the ring round. Choose gold in preference to other metals, as this is the least likely to lead to infection. If your ears are to flare up consult your doctor.
Keep your ears protected from the cold and use a good sunscreen while sunbathing. So, the cartilage at the top and back of the ear is particularly susceptible.
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