Better Hearing Blog

You’re still listening when you’re sleeping

You’re still listening when you’re sleeping

Our ears and brains continue to process sounds even when we’re deep asleep. That’s how a mother can awake to her child’s cries, for example. But she wouldn’t wake up because of the noise of chirping crickets or a whirring fan.

Even in our deepest state of sleep, some parts of the brain remain active. This is a vigilance function, a survival instinct that lets the body decide whether or not to wake up when you hear sounds. 

Science Daily reported a study by a Johns Hopkins undergraduate student that pinpointed areas of the brain’s frontal lobe that respond to sounds even when sleeping. Even though sounds may not wake you up from sleep, they can change body functions such as increasing heart rate and releasing hormones.

Even though scientists don’t know exactly how we monitor our environments when we sleep, they know that it can influence the stages of sleep.

How Sounds During Sleep Affect The Stages of Sleep

Every night, a normal adult goes through four to six sleep cycles. Each of these cycles consists of four stages each with different characteristics.

  • Stage 1 (light sleep): You’re just starting to sleep but aren’t completely relaxed. You’re still paying attention to your environment, your body may twitch, and it’s very easy to wake up. This is what happens during a short nap.
  • Stage 2: Heart rate, breathing, and body temperature start to drop. The brain also slows down, so it’s harder to wake up.
  • Stage 3 (deep sleep): This is a slow-wave sleep in which your brain disconnects from the rest of the world. Your breathing, heart rate, and temperature drop significantly. You retain a slight awareness of the outside world, but it’s hard to shake you from this sleep.
  • Stage 4 or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep: This is the stage when you dream. All brain activity is temporarily paused, and it is the deepest stage of sleep during which you can’t be awakened by sounds. 

Stages 3 and 4 are vital for good health and brain function. Stage 3 sleep is when the brain consolidates memories, relaxes muscles, and starts self-repair. Stage 4 or REM sleep is critical for immune and cognitive functions, learning, and creativity, and is responsible for vivid dreams.

However, sounds during sleep stop you from reaching the two-deep stages of sleep. It causes the body to react to all sounds, become excited, and release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Over time, chronically disturbed sleep and insomnia can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure.)

How White Noise Affects Sleep

Studies have shown that we can hear even when we’re asleep, except in REM sleep. However, not all sounds will arouse your body and increase vigilance. Sounds that the brain determines as soothing and non-threatening—called white noise—can actually improve sleep quality.

White noise, such as a humming fan, is continuous, low-frequency sound without any high-frequency peaks. It helps to block out sharp outside noise, a bit like how a pair of noise-blocking earphones or headphones work.

With less interruption in your sleep cycles, you will sleep better and reach all four stages of sleep. White noise also helps people with hearing loss or tinnitus who, ironically, find it hard to sleep properly. While noise helps them sleep by relaxing their brains more and introducing background sounds.

Your TV or radio is a terrible choice for background noise because it has frequency peaks and unexpected sounds. If you’re having trouble sleeping due to ambient noise, consider getting a whilte noise machine. 

Medication-Induced Hearing Loss

Medication-Induced Hearing Loss

If you experience difficulty hearing, you might want to check the list of medications you are currently taking. While previous studies have linked pain-relieving medications with hearing loss in men, more recent research also points to over-the-counter pain relievers as a cause of hearing loss in women. According to a new analysis from the Nurses’ Health Study, women who took “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs” (NSAIDs and ibuprofen, in particular) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) more than two days a week for at least six years had a ten percent increased risk of hearing loss. The good news is that hearing loss usually improves when these medications are stopped. Consult with your physician if you experience hearing problems.

Finding the right person to trust with something as precious as your hearing can be difficult, but folks in the Concord area have a real advantage in BETTER HEARING CENTER. Here, we are committed to providing quality hearing healthcare to all our patients, backed by extensive education and experience. Our advanced training gives us a broad understanding of the wide variety of hearing technologies available today. If you are concerned about your hearing or a loved one’s hearing, now is a good time to call us at to arrange a comprehensive hearing test. We are New Hampshire’s premier hearing care provider.

P.S. According to the study mentioned, although aspirin is an NSAID, it is not associated with hearing loss when taken in low doses for heart health.


Escaping Detection

Escaping Detection

Just as cosmetic concerns may compel an orthodontic patient to opt for “invisible braces,” some hearing instrument users choose “completely-in-the-canal” (CIC) instruments, which fit deeply into the ear canal and are virtually invisible. Their positioning deep within the canal ensures that output is closer to the eardrum. As a result, the amount of amplification available is greater for the same amount of power as in other hearing instruments. Some wearers report that the CIC instrument’s sound is clearer than their previous instruments, while others find that listening on the telephone is easier (especially if they previously had to remove their hearing instrument to do so). The snug fit of CICs also eliminates acoustic feedback.

Even though they are more sophisticated and technologically advanced than ever, today’s hearing instruments still keep one simple goal in mind—helping the hearing impaired hear better by making the most of the hearing they have. Come find out what’s new at BETTER HEARING CENTER. You just may hear some things you haven’t heard in a long time. As New Hampshire’s premier hearing care provider, we are the only hearing center that has served the Concord, New Hampshire, area for more than 55 years.

P.S. Because it is housed inside the ear, a CIC instrument reduces wind noise.

Do You Have Difficulty Hearing?

Do You Have Difficulty Hearing?

The hearing loss that most people experience can be so gradual that they might not realize their hearing is impaired. Instead, they deal with insidious hearing loss by accepting it as normal. However, there is nothing normal about hearing sounds and voices that seem muffled, or finding that higher pitched sounds (such as children’s voices) are more difficult to hear. If you recognize such symptoms, you may want to ask yourself if you frequently request that people repeat what they have just said to you, or if you generally find it harder to understand conversation, particularly in noisy environments. These are just a few of the many symptoms of hearing loss that should lead to a comprehensive hearing test.

When you feel that things don’t sound “right” or the way they use to, but you don’t know why, come to BETTER HEARING CENTER for a complete, painless hearing evaluation from a certified clinical audiologist. Specializing in evaluating and treating people of all ages with hearing loss, our focus is on helping people lead more effective and productive lives through better hearing. Most insurances accepted for hearing evaluations. We are New Hampshire’s premier hearing care provider.

P.S. As a result of ignoring hearing loss, hearing-impaired individuals may sometimes find that those around them would rather avoid conversations than have to repeat themselves.

Making Small Talk

Making Small Talk

Recent research underlines the important role that good hearing plays in the lives of developing children. It seems that babies are more likely to listen to one another than they are to listen to adults, and listening to other babies helps small children develop speech. Researchers found that, even before they begin to speak for themselves, five-month-old babies spent 40 percent more time listening to the vocalizations of other babies than they did to adults making the same sounds. Infants find the speech of other infants to be quite captivating; it can hold their attention and even prompt positive emotions. Their fascination with “baby talk” is thought to support the earliest stages of speech development.

As a primary source of information for learning, the auditory system is key for a child’s healthy development. Because there are many different reasons for any hearing loss, early detection is crucial to successfully addressing the impairment. In fact, infants can be tested for hearing abilities as young as a few hours old. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s hearing, or if you’d like to make an appointment to have your own hearing tested, please give us a call at BETTER HEARING CENTER. We are New Hampshire’s premier hearing care provider.

P.S. One to three of every 1,000 babies born have some degree of hearing loss. Newborn hearing screening is essential.

Noise Linked with Heart Disease

Noise Linked with Heart Disease

Because heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States, it is important to adopt measures that help prevent heart attacks. Aside from quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising, avoiding noise may also help maintain a healthy heart. According to a recent study of 499 individuals who were free from cardiovascular disease and cancer at the study’s start, exposure to a high level of noise on a regular basis can inflict significant damage on the cardiovascular system. Researchers found that noise exposure caused elevated stress in the brain that can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels, which results in heart attack and stroke.

BETTER HEARING CENTER brings you this column on hearing healthcare and its impact on the entire body in order to better educate our readers on the importance and benefits of taking care of their hearing, thus enhancing their quality of life. If you or a family member seems to be experiencing hearing difficulties, we welcome your call. We offer comprehensive services by a skilled and specially trained clinical audiologist including hearing tests and evaluations, individualized hearing instrument fittings, and follow-up care. We are New Hampshire’s premier hearing care provider.

P.S. It makes sense to carry around a pair of ear plugs that can be inserted whenever
ambient noise rises to a dangerous level.