What are the things that bring you joy? Sometimes it is just as easy as a phone call from a friend or your favorite song playing over the radio as you drive. Perhaps it’s the smell of fresh baked goods in the oven like a loved one used to make or the sound of rain on a summer day. Sounds and smells trigger dopamine in your brain that can lift your spirits and help you feel connected to the world. If you suffer from hearing loss, you may miss sounds that make you happy. This is just one way that hearing loss depletes your quality of life.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters act as the body’s chemical messengers transmitting messages between neurons or muscles. In a way, they are how the brain communicates information across the body. Created in several areas of the brain and regulated by the hypothalamus, dopamine helps us experience pleasure. It is a huge part of our decision making process as humans, as we often make decisions based on what will create the highest dopamine response. Even more importantly, dopamine helps regulate mood, sleep, behavior and cognitive processing.
Dopamine and Hearing Loss
But how does Dopamine affect our hearing? Even though we detect sound with our ears we process sound with our brains. Tiny hairs called cilia in the inner ear pick up sounds around us and transmit those sounds to our brain via the auditory nerve. When we experience damage to any part of our fragile auditory pathway is damaged our ability to hear the sounds in our world becomes compromised.
To understand further how dopamine affects the auditory nerve French researchers examined proteins called dopamine transporters, which moves dopamine between nerve synapses and the auditory nerve. Published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience the research illuminated the importance of dopamine in maintaining the successful functioning of the auditory nerve and how it processes sounds.
Untreated hearing loss and your mood
Hearing loss is common affecting 466 million people worldwide and is a very serious condition. While hearing loss by itself can be extremely frustrating there are many dangerous effects to our mental and physical health. When we struggle to hear, we tend to find conversation frustrating and exhausting. People may be susceptible to fatigue, bursts of anger, frustration, anxiety and a lower sense of confidence. When hearing loss goes untreated, people are often less independent as they struggle to navigate the world around them with compromised hearing. Often people will choose to self-isolate rather than subject themselves to a world full of hurdles for those who are hearing impaired.
Changes in Personality Connected to Hearing Loss
Humans are a social species and our happiness and joy are often contingent on social interaction. A 2014 study from the University of Gothenburg looked at how hearing loss can affect a person’s personality and mood. The researchers examined the social patterns of 400 people between 80 and 98 over six years and found that most became less outgoing and that this negatively affected their mood. Our ability to communicate and connect brings us joy and helps us receive dopamine that helps regulate our mood and mental health. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to fatigue, mood swings, and lack of motivation.
Boost your Dopamine
It is important to keep your mood up and dopamine flowing to also protect your hearing health. With attention and consistency you can maintain your mood, which is connected, to just about every part of your physical and mental health, including hearing
- Exercise. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of cardio work out everyday to increase circulation and increase dopamine levels.
- Eat healthy. Eat a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits and whole grains while avoiding processed foods full of sugar and saturated fats. This will help you avoid mood swings.
- Meditating. Take a break and meditate to reduce stress, which can negatively affect dopamine levels.
Reach out to people you love and just say hello. Speaking to the people we love boosts dopamine and improves our mood. If you are having trouble hearing the people you love it is time to schedule a hearing test. Our team can help you find the best hearing aids to help you hear all the things that bring you joy. Contact us today!