Hearing Loss : Mechanism, Diagnosis & Restoration With Yoga & Ayurveda
IntroductionOur social and personal life depends greatly on how developed our communication skills are, and communication skill development depends greatly on speech and hearing. Hearing defects present at birth could impair a child’s growth and cognitive development. But any abnormality detected earlier in life can be restored effectively so that growth and development is not compromised, the sooner the better. Before moving on to the diagnostic procedures and restorative and preventive practices, let us understand how hearing works in humans.
The Mechanism of HearingOur ear is a complex organ with most of its mechanism hidden inside the head and only a little of it visible to us from outside. We shall look at it by first dividing it into three parts. The outer one-third is called the ‘outer ear’, which is shaped like a cone so that the sound waves falling on it can converge and fall inside for further processing. The central one-third is called the ‘middle ear’, consisting of small musculoskeletal structures: the eardrum, on which the converged sound waves fall; and the malleus, the stapes and the incus. They together amplify these waves, and then send them further inside. The innermost one-third part is the ‘inner ear’, which is also called cochlea. The cochlea has nerve cells on its inner end. Thin hairy structures are joined to these nerve cells whose function is to convert sound waves into electrical signals in raw form, which are again understood by the brain in the form of sound.
Partial or complete inability of any of the organs responsible in the mechanism of hearing is called hearing loss. It could be mild, so much that it could go unnoticed, or it could also be proceeding towards permanent loss i.e. deafness. Hearing loss can be contributed to by degenerative changes, which means that some degree of loss of hearing is considered normal in the elderly. Depending on which part of the ear is not functioning normally, hearing loss is studied as any of the following three types:
- Conductive, i.e. that occurring in the outer or middle ear,
- Sensorineural, i.e. one that occurs in the inner ear; or
- Mixed, i.e. a combination of conductive and sensorineural.
Sensorineural hearing loss could occur when the inner ear has been damaged, which mostly occurs in the long-term due to exposure to loud, continuous noises. However, accumulation of earwax also contributes to impaired hearing. Conductive hearing loss could be caused by an infection, or a perforation in the eardrum due to a sharp object, or sudden loud noises (such as those of fireworks), or sudden and significant changes in ambient air pressure. Growth of bones or tumors in the outer or middle ear can also adversely affect hearing.
We can easily tell when we require an eye sight test, but we may not be able to realize the requirement of getting our ears tested for hearing because hearing loss is gradual. However, some signs like not being able to differentiate talk from background noise and feeling the need to raise TV volume even when no one else feels so, tell that one has a problematic hearing. Adults should get hearing tests regularly, like once every ten years until their mid-40s and then more frequently.
Adults can take normal hearing tests where they have to tell what they heard over a series of sounds and words played into each ear in a sound-proof room, but what about children and babies, and most importantly, infants and newborns? Hearing is crucial in the cognitive and communicative development of a child; therefore each infant should be tested for proper hearing. More developed tests are done for testing hearing in newborns and babies. Such a test is the BERA test.
What is BERA?B.E.R.A., which expands to brainstem evoked response audiometry, is a form of hearing test that is done on children usually younger than 7. Because the baby cannot itself tell if its brain is satisfactorily receiving and processing sound signals, the tests used for testing hearing in adults cannot be used for babies. Unlike other hearing tests that rely on the individual’s verbal response, the BERA test uses the responses originating from those parts of the child’s nervous system that are concerned with the sense of hearing. It can be performed for newborns as a confirmation for their general wellbeing, or for babies and infants if parents think they have a problem in hearing.
- While the baby is asleep, gentle earphones are put on the baby’s ears.
- Small ends of wires are stuck to the baby’s head on specific points at 3-4 places.
- These wires are connected to a computer.
- Sounds are played through the earphones.
- As the baby hears them and its brain responds to them, nervous signals show on the computer.
- The softest sound that the baby responds to is noted as the baby’s hearing ability.
- If the baby’s brain doesn’t respond to these sounds, the test may be repeated after two weeks.
- The test is safe and non-invasive.
- It may take 60-90 minutes to get the test done.
- It is conducted while the baby is asleep. Therefore, parents are told to keep the baby awake before they arrive for the test.
- It can be done for children over 3-4 years if they can lie still while awake.
- If the results are satisfactory according to the doctor, no further testing or treatment shall be required.
- If the results are not found satisfactory by the doctor, either testing is done again after some weeks or treatment is begun.
Efficacy of BERA Test in Hearing Loss Diagnosis
It is suggested that hearing loss tests be done for children early in life because hearing is an extremely important factor of the child’s development of speech, expression, cognition and mental health. If the nerve responsible for conveying sound signals from the outside to the brain is working fine in terms of clarity and speed, hearing is considered healthy or normal. The BERA test can provide information about the following parameters:
- If the signals are being conveyed at all
- Speed of transmission of signals
- Whether or not the rate of transmission is normal
- Which part is functioning abnormally; i.e. conductive, or sensorineural
- What is the degree of abnormality
- Health of the child’s inner ear
- If one ear functions different than the other
- Presence of tumors or other growth
It has been found out in a twenty-two month long study that the BERA test is highly effective in finding out which part of the ear is responsible for the faulty hearing mechanism. It also finds out if there is any injury, damage or inflammation near the pons and the cerebellum. This study suggests that the BERA test should be used by more ENT specialists since it can also detect neurologic conditions in addition to faulty hearing.  It is especially recommended for patients who are physically or mentally unable to take part in regular hearing tests.
Yoga For Better Hearing
We know that general flexibility and fitness can be boosted by practicing yoga exercises, but what is not commonly known is that yoga has the most systematic approach towards managing and preventing sensory and neurological conditions. Hearing is an example of such conditions where the external organ is of lesser importance in the whole mechanism, and the nervous system has a greater role to play. The following exercises are recommended to be practiced in the same sequence as they are mentioned in:
‘The Triangle Pose’: this pose enhances blood circulation and forms the basis of all nerve-strengthening exercises. It is a mild but effective practice for restoring neurosensory disorders.
- Stand with the legs wide apart. Raise both arms at the sides of the body parallel to the ground.
- Bend forwards and touch the right foot with the left hand. The torso shall rotate accordingly.
- Perform on the other side similarly.
- Perform 10 rounds.
‘The Tiger Pose’: Known as the tiger pose, this is a dynamic exercise. This shall balance the chemical and physical processes of both the cerebral hemispheres.
- Stand on all fours i.e. kneel and place the palms on the floor.
- Keep the elbows and the knees relaxed but firm.
- Inhale and drop the back to make it a downward curve. Face should be upright.
- Now extend the left arm and the right leg straight and parallel to the ground.
- Exhale and form an upward curve with the back. The face should be down and the chin close to the neck.
- Extend the right arm and the left leg parallel to the ground.
- Repeat each position ten times.
- Relax the neck and the back.
- Lift the palms from the mat.
- Perform ten rounds on each side.
‘The Lotus Pose’: Padmasana has been used by yogis since ages to enhance functioning of the nervous system.
- Sit with the legs outstretched.
- Place the right foot on the left thigh and place the left foot on the right thigh.
- Keep the spine straight and the whole body relaxed.
- Keep breathing deeply and normally.
- Sit in this pose for as long as you would like to.
‘The Lord of the Dancers Pose’: named after lord Shiva, the king of all the dancers, this is an advanced pose and is extremely beneficial for balancing the nervous and physical equilibrium. It is beneficial for all neurosensory disorders.
- Stand with the feet equally sharing the weight of the body.
- Hold the right big toe with the right hand.
- Raise the left arm in front of the body.
- Simultaneously, pull the toes of the right foot with the right hand.
- Balance the whole body on the left leg.
- Stay in this position for at least 10 seconds.
- Release and perform on the other side.
- It may take some time to balance the whole body on one leg, but it can be perfected with practice.
5. Anuloma Viloma Pranayama
‘Alternate Nostril Breathing’: a subtle practice, meant for improving the overall nervous functioning.
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- The back should be straight and relaxed.
- The wrists should rest on the knees in the default position.
- Put the index finger and the ring finger of the right hand on the forehead on top of the nose.
- Use the thumb to close the right nostril.
- Inhale with the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with the ring finger.
- Exhale with the right nostril.
- Inhale with the right nostril and close it with the thumb.
- Exhale with the left nostril.
- Practice thirty respirations in this way.
6. Bhramari Pranayama
‘Humming Bee Breath’: this humming bee practice stimulates normal and healthy functioning of the brain and the spinal cord. It is not only a great restorative practice for hearing, but also a great practice for entering meditation.
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- The spine and the back should be straight and relaxed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Gently plug both the ears with the thumbs of both hands.
- Put the fingers on each eye.
- Inhale deeply, and with exhalation, make a deep humming sound like a bee.
- Practice seven times.
7. Yoga Nidra
‘Yogic Sleep’: A relaxation meditation, the Yoga Nidra is also known as ‘yogic sleep’ where the body is reenergized as it is in actual sleep, in much less time. It is actually more beneficial than an actual sleep. It should be guided for non-adepts. It is done by first practicing Shavasana.
- Lie down in Shavasana.
- Start by moving the attention towards the feet. After a few seconds, move the attention up through the legs, the pelvis, the back, the abdomen, the arms, the thorax, the neck, to the head.
- Observe the whole body.
- Breathing should be regular and relaxed.
- When guided, wake up and end the session.
- Yoga Nidra relaxes the whole body.
- It rejuvenates the mind and relieves stress.
- It treats all chronic physical and mental disorders.
Sometimes, when the condition of an individual doesn’t allow them to perform any other yoga practices such as asana or Pranayama, Yoga Nidra is the only safe and feasible treatment for a patient.
Ayurvedic Remedies For Hearing LossPlanet Ayurveda manufactures pure herbal formulations that are used as medications and tonics worldwide. These formulations are carefully sourced from authentic texts on Ayurveda written in ancient India thousands of years ago. The formulations are chemical free and additive free and thus safe for consumption by people of all ages and individual conditions. The products are suitable for people with all dietary preferences and restrictions since these are completely plant-based, halal and completely organic. A combination has been created by experts at Planet Ayurveda for ayurvedic management of hearing loss.
- Brahmi Chyawanprash
- Ashwagandha Capsules
- Neuro Plan Syrup
- Brahmi Chyawanprash : It is a jam-like formulation made with around thirty herbs including Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Dashamoola, Bala (Sida cordifolia), etc. It is not only a tonic for the nerves and the brain, but also restores equilibrium of all the doshas.
Dosage : 1-2 tsp thrice daily after meals, with milk.
- Ashwagandha Capsules : Pure Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is made into the form of capsules for improving nervous transmission and response. It improves coordination of the sensory organs and the central nervous system.
Dosage : 1-2 capsules twice daily after meals, with regular water.
- Neuro Plan Syrup : A formulation of around ten herbs including Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica), Jyotishmati (Celastrus paniculatus), and Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), this syrup is a powerful tonic for neurosensory function.
Dosage : 1-2 tsp twice daily.