There is a fascinating connection between vibrations and hearing loss.
Being exposed to frequent or strong vibrations can cause hearing damage. This is a major problem for people who work in construction or manufacturing.
However, people with hearing damage may actually be more sensitive to low-level vibrations. This can help them experience the world more fully.
The Link between Sensitivity to Vibrations and Hearing Loss
According to research, people living with heaing impairments respond to vibrations differently than people who hear normally. The difference lies in which areas of the brain process the vibrations.
When a hearing person experiences vibrations, their brain will show activity in one particular region.
People with hearing impairments process vibrations in the same region of the brain. But MRI scans show increased activity in another brain area as well.
In people unaffected by hearing loss, this is the region that processes sound. However, it only responds to vibrations in the brains of people with hearing impairment.
When a person is born deaf, the region of their brain that should be responsible for hearing remains unused. Over time, it develops other functions instead.
But Does This Mean Increased Sensitivity?
By studying people with inherited DFNA2 hearing loss, scientists have found a connection between improved sensitivity to vibrations and hearing loss.
People with this type of congenital hearing loss respond more readily to soft vibrations. Additionally, they are more sensitive to touch.
Responding to touch involves a complex chemical process. In people with DFNA2 hearing loss, this process is different and more effective. This discovery is the first time that science found a gene responsible for touch sensitivity.
Responding to vibrations and to touch is important for everyone. For people with hearing impediments, vibrations can provide a replacement for experiencing music. Additionally, feeling vibrations can help people with hearing loss navigate traffic.