Participating in Sports Has Been Linked to Improved Hearing, Studies Show


Nic Rendon, Contributor

People always talk about the advantages and disadvantages of playing sports as a child. Some people believe that it is a great way for kids to learn social skills, teamwork, and it keeps them in good shape. others claim that it is not necessary, and that there are other ways to help kids develop those skills. Recently, there have been studies done to show that playing sports, as a youth or an adult, is linked to better hearing and improved brain activity.

Neurologist Nina Kraus and the rest of her team recently discovered that athletes have less “brain static” than non-athletes. This is especially the case for elite athletes. According to Kraus, the brain has a static-like background noise. This noise interferes with the ability to hear. The volume of this noise is partly based on the amount of auditory enrichment your brain receives as it is developing. Her studies show that playing sports can help lessen the static. She claims that, “Compared to non-athletes, elite athletes can better process external sounds, such as a teammate yelling a play or a coach calling to them from the sidelines, by tamping down background electrical noise in their brain.”(CNN) Having the electric noise tuned out makes hearing and processing sound much easier on the brain.

Hearing and processing sound is not an easy task on the brain. The brain has to first receive the sound, then decipher the tone, pitch, volume, and timing of the sound it picks up. Kraus is also performing experiments on how concussions can affect an athlete’s ability to efficiently hear and process noise. She has discovered similarities in the brains of various athletes. She observed that their brains all respond in a similar way to suffering a concussion. She is now trying to see the way the brain is affected by sports over a long period of time. She told CNN, “As the years go on and we follow the same athlete, we will be better able to understand how their neural noise changes over time, or how it may possibly differ from one sport to another, especially high-contact sports.” (CNN) Following one athlete and constantly monitoring brain activity will help show scientist how the brain is altered by various factors. She is also looking to find out how playing contact sports changes brain activity compared to non-contact sports.

In the past, Nina Kraus has discovered that other things can help the brain’s auditory efficiency. Learning to play an instrument has been shown to help eliminate brain static. Studying a second language also leads to similar results. They have this effect on the brain because they are not easy to do. They require high activity from the brain, forcing it to block out the static noise. In the long run, they benefit the brain in a major way. Stimulating the brain is the best way to get it running efficiently and keeping it from deteriorating. Through stimulation, it is being trained to operate well in day-to-day life.