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What Happens to Our Hearing When We Sleep?

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Recently we were asked what happens to our hearing when we sleep? The answer is fairly straight forward: while we are sleeping, our ears continue to collect 100% of the sounds around us. It’s our brain that reduces the processing of sounds to a minimal level. It is because of this continuous processing of sounds his during our sleep most people prefer a quiet bedroom.

Sleeping and Hearing
PinkStock Photos, D. Sharon Pruitt

Noise Levels and Sleep

Different noises and intensities at night can cause you to move in your sleep, alter the stage of your sleep, and cause physiological changes including blood pressure and heart rate increases. Loud noises will generally wake most of us up even if for a very short period that we may not even remember in the morning. The likelihood of noise to wake us from our sleep will vary with the stage of sleep in we are in as well as our psychological reaction to the type of sounds where hearing. For example, a parent that can sleep through relatively loud but common sounds such as a train passing by will be easily aroused by the sound of a child’s voice. Personal meaning and the stage of sleep we are in goes a long way when it comes to sounds waking us from our sleep.

Sound Sleepers

Sleep researchers categorize sleep into four progressively deeper and more restful stages. During the first two stages of sleep the noises around you are more likely to wake you up but going back to sleep quickly is relatively easy. For the last two stages, the stages with deeper REM sleep, noises that arouse tend to be more detrimental than in the first two stages of sleep. Often being woken in the deeper stages means you won’t get back to sleep easily. You probably know people that are “sound sleepers” and seem to sleep through everything. Car alarms, fire alarms, people yelling a party next door seem to have no effect on these people. Recent sleep studies have suggested that people who can seeming sleep through anything, have a brain activity level that makes them less easily aroused by loud noises.

So, when it comes to hearing in our sleep, our ears are listening wide open and it’s our brain that is turning down the volume.

How’s your hearing lately? It could be time for a hearing test. To hear what you have been missing, call us at (204) 788-1083