For many years, the medical community has understood that social isolation can have drastic effects on a person’s mental well-being, but we now know it can also affect how your auditory system functions. A team of researchers at Georgia State University conducted a new study to explore this hearing phenomenon.
Using green tree frogs, who have relatively simple forms of communication, the researchers examined the consequences of social isolation on sound perception. For 10 consecutive nights, two groups of frogs, a control group and test group, were subjected to varying sounds. While the control group heard a series of random sounds, the test group heard socially important sounds—their species’ calls—just as they would in the wild.
Just as human rely on speech, the species-specific calls have great significance to the green tree frog, as they facilitate social behavior. When the test group was exposed to these socially meaningful calls, they were shown to be more sensitive to these sounds than the control group.
The study suggests that more social interaction increases your capacity to understand social sounds. It also shows that these sounds can physically modify the ear to increase sensitivity, though the precise location of this change is unknown.
The research has substantial implications for socially isolated humans, such as individuals in nursing homes and prisoners, who are likely to communicate less frequently. It could also have importance for the hearing impaired community as well, who sometimes struggle to hear speech frequencies.
The best way to keep your auditory system healthy is to include annual audiology tests as a part of your annual health routine. A doctor of audiology can perform comprehensive testing to identify a potential hearing loss. If a hearing loss is present, your audiologist can help you find a hearing aid to restore your listening capabilities. By being proactive about your hearing health, you can avoid unwanted complications that develop from untreated hearing loss, which include depression, anxiety and cognitive decline. To find a provider of hearing aids in Tucson, contact our team at (520) 399-7630.