There is a saying in the auditory therapy world that “Our Ears Have No Earlids.”
If you think about sensory information that comes in through other ways – eyes (sight), tactile (skin and muscles), tongue (taste), they all shut down when we are not using them. But our auditory system is different. When we shut our eyes, or stop eating or tasting or are asleep, our other senses get a rest.
With our auditory system, we are processing sound 24/7. We take in sound through our ears (air conduction) and our skeleton (bone conduction). Have you ever wondered why your voice sounds different when you hear a recording of yourself? That is because when we speak, we are hearing ourselves through air conduction and bone conduction combined as the sound is bounced around and resonates through our skeletal system. When we hear a recording, we are listening primarily through air conduction, and so we sound very foreign to ourselves.
Alfred Tomatis, a French ear nose and throat specialist who was revolutionary in the field of sound processing, said our whole body is like an ear.
Unfortunately, it is an ear without any earlids. We can’t close it down like we can when we close our eyes to go to sleep. The ears and body continually work to filter out sounds and tell us what is important and what isn’t. It is essential for survival, alerting us to sounds that need our attention, like a fire in the house, or a child screaming for help.
Ever wondered why you are so tired after you travel? It is because your body and ears have had to process non-stop sound – the sound of the engines, It is working constantly while we are trying to get some rest and as a result, you get off the other end feeling exhausted,
Remember that unless we give our auditory system a break, it can become overwhelming. Often in peak traffic we will feel more tense. In high noise situations we become much more tired than in a calm, tranquil setting. So take some time, lie down or sit still and just listen to some soothing music for a few minutes each day. You will feel less stressed, and it gives your auditory system a chance to recover.
Babies and children need this more than we do. They have not yet developed the filtration systems we have in place so everything coming at them is processed resulting in tiredness and fatigue.
5 Things You Can Do To Help A Child’s Auditory System
- Take time out to rest. Just a few minutes every day is all it takes to give the auditory system a rest. If we don’t, children can become overwhelmed, exhausted and irritable. Spend a few moments lying down listening to a relaxing piece of music, or lie outside and watch the clouds. Something where there is not much sound and if there is, calming music calms the brain, birdsong is great too or the sounds of nature so use them to give your brain and auditory system a break.
- Play music. The brain is constantly trying to make sense of sound. There is a lot of sound around that is nonsensical, like air conditioners, traffic etc. They don’t have a rhythm to them and the brain thrives on rhythm and patterns. By playing music, we give our brains something to hang onto and sound is processed more easily.
- Play sound games. Children love different voices and silly sounds. It is also really good for their auditory processing so make funny sounds and play with words. Make your voice slide high and low and in an arch like a rainbow. When reading use silly voices and different voices as the characters. It gives your child practice at processing sound in different ways and helps with acquiring language.
- Protect against loud sounds. Sounds that are too loud will permanently damage hearing. You may not see the effect immediately, but you will as you get older. When we speak, a typical conversation is about 60 decibels (dB). A bulldozer idling runs at about 80dB and is enough to cause damage if you are close and it runs for about an hour (hence why bulldozer drivers need hearing protection). It doesn’t have to sound deafeningly loud to do damage so always cover a child’s ears when going in a loud environment.
- Play with rhymes and chants. Children love these. They lyrical nature of the speech once again provides patterns and a rhythm that the brain finds soothing. Loads of fun for little ones and preschoolers love playing with the words to make rhyming words of their own.