Most people experience stress at some stage of their life. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic long-term stress can be harmful to one’s health. It may cause serious health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Several tactics to reduce stress have been recommended. These tactics include exercise, meditation, and staying connected to friends and family who can provide support. Reducing stress with your hearing is also an option through choosing a relaxing activity such as listening to certain soft sounds and music may also prove to be beneficial. Therefore, it is important to maintain one’s hearing health through the management of your stress levels.
The effect of sounds on our emotions
You may have noticed that certain sounds can have a positive effect on the way that you feel. For example, the sounds of gentle rain or birds singing. These sounds are perceived as pleasant and bring about feelings of happiness. Hearing a song after a long day may also help to lift your mood. But why do different sounds affect us?
Researchers have found that listening to gentle natural sounds can cause a decrease in the body’s sympathetic response (the “fight-or-flight” response) and an increase in the body’s parasympathetic response (the “rest-and-digest” response). This may be because these sounds are gentle, constant and familiar sounds which the brain interprets as non-threatening. Furthermore, this positive response to gentle sounds was greater in individuals who were experiencing high levels of stress as opposed to those with low levels of stress. Additionally, a recent study proved that listening to music is associated with the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is known to produce a “feel-good” state. It plays a role in our cognitive, behavioral, and emotional functioning.
Different relaxing sounds and how to incorporate them into your life
Individuals who experience high levels of stress may find it particularly beneficial to add relaxing sounds and music into their daily routines as a way of reducing stress with your hearing. These include:
Sounds of nature and white noise
The best way to expose yourself to natural sounds is by actually going into nature. Taking walks in a non-busy neighborhood, parks, or going hiking may prove to be helpful. As a bonus, listening to natural sounds as well as the exercise from these activities can help to decrease experienced stress.
Alternatively, technology can be used. Smartphones have a number of applications that can be downloaded for free. These applications can provide access to several relaxing sounds that can be used at any time and in any place, such as rain, the ocean, or even white and pink noise. YouTube may also be another option, in which one may watch a range of calming videos incorporated with music or other relaxing sounds.
Interesting to note, is louder sounds such as those of a train or jet can also produce a similar effect on the brain as other softer and natural sounds. It is thought that this may be because they are also steady, familiar, and non-threatening sounds.
Different types of music will have a different effect on your emotions. To relieve stress, it is usually recommended that one listens to music with a slower tempo. This type of music may include light jazz, classical music, or even other instrumental music. One of the benefits of using music to relieve stress is that it can be incorporated into almost any time of your daily routine. You can start your day with comforting music to keep you calm and focused or incorporate it when driving to work, cooking, cleaning, or at mealtimes. Additionally, listening to music before bed or as you drift off can relieve stress and allow for better sleep. This is an easy way of reducing stress with your hearing.
Hearing loss and stress
Hearing loss and stress has also proven to have a relationship. Persons affected by hearing loss often have difficulty communicating with others, which may cause anxiety and stress when they enter their work environment or even when in social situations. As a result, they may often lose their self-confidence becoming isolated and depressed. On the other hand, research has shown that high levels of stress can increase a person’s risk of developing hearing loss. Furthermore, studies have also reported an association between tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and stress.
Taking the above into account it is important to consult one’s hearing care professional if you are experiencing any difficulty with regards to your hearing. Your hearing healthcare provider can offer a hearing aid if necessary, which will help to avoid stressful situations and improve one’s overall quality of life. It will also assist one to hear sounds and music as discussed above to help to decrease stress and anxiety. Additionally, soft sounds and music are also often used to help one cope with the experience of tinnitus. Hearing aids often have built-in tinnitus therapy programs that directly play soft sounds and music.
While most people experience stress, it may have a detrimental effect on one’s health. It may place one at a higher risk of developing hearing loss and is also often associated with the presence of tinnitus. Engaging in a relaxing activity, such as listening to soft sounds and music, may be one technique to manage the levels of stress experienced. To benefit fully from this technique, one needs to ensure good hearing health and consult a hearing health care professional if necessary. Additionally, soft sounds and music are also often used to manage tinnitus.