Sounds that Trigger Emotions

For most of the world, the month of February is the month of love. We buy chocolates, flowers and gifts for our families, friends and significant others to express our affection for them. But what is love? Is it a feeling or an emotion? Is it a sensation? In this blog we explore what makes up love and how sound and our hearing is a principle part of love’s equation.
Image of a loving couple hearing sound through a can and string.
The sound of song is also a powerful thing. Songs sung by our favorite artists trigger a range of emotions and feelings. We empathetically feel the pain the musicians are singing about, or in the case of a love song, connect their lyrics and music to the ones we love. Married couples carefully choose a song that will be “theirs” – often using it for their first dance at their wedding reception. 
Most religions use music and song to express one’s faith or love for a spiritual leader or higher power. Songs and prayers are often intertwined. Churches form huge choirs, some famous for their angelic voices, singing of their spiritual experiences. In other examples, song is used in a simplistic way - the rhythmic chanting of mantras of a single monk performing a ritual.

Brain Hearing

It is no coincidence that each of the 7,000 known languages have their own lullabies. Lullabies are sung from parents to infants as a way to connect and reassure. Hearing is one of the first senses we develop and though we can’t see our parents, we can certainly hear their distinct voices, singing to us, soothing us back to sleep. Even in illness, researchers have shown the power of a loving lullaby in helping alleviate anxiety and pain in small children.
mother singing a lullaby to her baby
In fact, by 23 weeks, unborn children in the womb have developed hearing to a point where they can consciously discern sounds. Though we can’t see, an infant can hear its mother’s voice, her heartbeat or the rumbling of her stomach. Sound levels in the womb can reach as high as 80 dB, which is equivalent to a car driving past you in the street. No wonder the reassuring words from a mother can soothe a newborn. The sound of her voice is one of the most familiar sounds we know at that point.
So what is actually happening in our brain when we hear sounds.  After passing through the ear, following our complex hearing system, sound waves eventually are converted to signals within the auditory nerve where it makes its way to the brain. One of the areas of the brain that responds to sound is called the hypothalamus.
It is a small ‘control center’ located deep within and helps us to decide if those sounds are a signal for danger around the corner or possibly a potential mate. In an instant, the body is ready to fight or flight in the face of danger or perhaps, overcome with an intense feeling of ‘true love’.

The Sense of Hearing

We don’t realize how much hearing is a part of our everyday loving relationships. Take away or diminish one’s hearing and the impact goes well beyond understanding people and the world around us. For example, a newborn with an undiagnosed hearing loss can be afflicted in its social and educational development until solutions are found. Later in life, those with hearing loss feel more isolated and often withdraw from relationships. People feel embarrassed or frustrated not understanding their loved ones. Activities involving music or listening to others also become a challenge. 
This is why it is so vital that we consistently check our hearing levels and make visits to an audiologist or hearing care professional an annual thing. Like a vision test, a hearing exam can confirm that our hearing is healthy or uncover issues before they become a more serious problem. 
With innovative solutions out there, permanent hearing loss doesn’t have to afflict our love lives or the sounds we love. Hearing aids may be appropriate and for the vast majority of users, they have re-engaged with life and the people and activities they love. Whether its around Valentine's Day or any other special moment, when you're thinking of all things love, don’t forget your sense of hearing and how much our lives are enriched by the sounds of love.

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