Your very first sound experience

By Hanneke Rabé

This month’s blog theme lies incredibly near to my heart, quite literally in fact.  It is found in the beating chest of the very special person we call “Mom”.  This article is dedicated to the person who gave us our very first sound experience, who introduced you to the soothing “lub-dub” sound of a heartbeat that would later form part of the thousands of familiar sounds stored deep in your brain.

The womb is not simply a quiet and cozy place we inhabit for nine months – it is our first learning environment.

In fact, a normal developing, unborn baby (or in more scientific circles, a fetus) hears his/her first sound at 18 weeks gestation.  Those little ears and auditory systems continue to develop rapidly in the coming weeks and research has shown that not only do babies recognize their own mother’s voice after birth, but they actually prefer it and can distinguish their mom’s voice from the chatter of other ladies in a room.

Even more fascinating is that in the womb, our brains focus on identifying and learning speech patterns, intonation and rhythm which all form the groundwork for learning language.  Your mom was your very first teacher and she laid the foundation of you learning a language by simply humming, singing, talking and laughing.  After you were born, she babbled and talked relentlessly, and repeated basic words like “spoon” and “cup” numerous times until you gave it a try yourself.  She used interesting voices and characters, read little books with you, sang songs and explained the meaning of words until you were ready to head off to the “big pond” – school.  It really was no small feat, mothers really are superheroes!

Your very first sound experience2

After we have left the nest, she might have enjoyed at least some peace and quiet at home to make up for the years of noise we emitted.  The problem, however, is when that “quiet” is resulting from something other than just a change in the everyday routine and home environment – if it is also in part due to a gradual decline in her hearing sensitivity.

With age, and noise exposure, it is not uncommon to see the onset of hearing loss during your middle ages.  Research has shown that approximately 1 out of 3 adults between the ages of 65 and 74 in the United States present with hearing loss and nearly 50% of persons older than 75 years have difficulty hearing. If your mom is missing a few words at Sunday lunch, asking you to repeat things here or there or not engaging in social gatherings like she used to, she might be showing signs of hearing loss.  Sit down with your mom, encourage her to have her hearing tested as a starting point and help her on her journey to enjoying life to the fullest.

“Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember, you’re the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.”  Rachel Wolchin