Music is a part of our daily lives; it moves us, inspires us. One thing you may not know is how much music affects your brain. Read on to learn about the link between hearing and the brain, and keeping your ears healthy.
Music and the Brain
The brain regulates the basic function of the ears, however, there is more to it than that. Research suggests that a portion of the brain devoted to hearing can become reorganized, and reassigned to other functions such as vision or touch and may play a role in cognitive decline. This can be turned around, however, when we see how healthy hearing affects our cognitive function. Healthy ears keep us active and social, and people who use hearing instruments when they experience hearing loss slow their cognitive decline to rates similar to those with no hearing loss.
So where does music come into this?
Music can activate certain regions in your brain involved with planning, learning, and memory, and it increases the size of the corpus callosum. This means musicians get an added bonus: when people who play instruments listen to music, their brain fires symmetrically. Furthermore, listening to music has been shown to decrease chronic tinnitus (ringing in the ears), showing that a feedback loop from ears to brain and back again exists, and giving us all the more reason to use healthy enhancement devices like the ones discussed in our previous post.
Here are some more reasons to use music to keep your brain healthy:
The Chemicals of Mental Health
Music releases chemicals in the brain that regulate various systems throughout the body. Dopamine, a chemical which induces pleasure and joy, improves mood and reduces anxiety. It also enhances motivation, and aids in creating positive experiences.
As a result, music has been used to reduce depression, including postpartum depression in new mothers, to the point where reduced probability of postpartum depression and anxiety are seen after simply using music during labor. Relaxing music helps with insomnia and other sleep disturbances. It can even reduce the number of seizures in epileptics.
Immune System, Disease, and Pain
While the effects of music on our mental health may seem a little too obvious (Good music makes us happy; therefore, we are less depressed.), it is the effect on physical health that shows the full power of music.
Remember that fun little chemical dopamine? Well, in addition to boosting mood, it boosts immune system hormones. It often works with cortisol – also released when listening to music – which enhances the brain’s use of glucose. These chemicals increase availability of a number of substances used for repairing the body.
The way it affects pain receptors is also pretty amazing. Relaxing music helps people suffering from migraines, reducing the intensity and frequency of headaches. People who listen to music after surgery show both reduced pain scores and reduced anxiety.
Memory and Concentration
Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit. Surgeons who listen to their favorite music while in surgery show greater efficiency in their technique. This increase in efficiency likewise carries over into the classroom, where students who have ADHD show increased concentration and focus, and listening to music during math tests has been shown to increase performance by 40%. Music raises our ability to problem-solve, and increases our efficiency when performing tasks.
Music is great for memory, too. Does hearing a specific song out of the blue remind you of a different time in your life, or a particular experience? Music hits those centers of the brain, also, and has been shown to help those with brain-injury recall past memories.
All in all, music is good for the brain, which is good for you. Music keeps you healthy, so keep those ears healthy when you listen. Get evaluated, get fitted for hearing enhancement devices, and get ready to hit “Play.”