Music can help motivate or calm an individual, but how (and why) do these musical melodies affect us? While your ears are responsible for picking up the sounds around you, your brain is in charge of translating the sound.
From everyday conversations to musical melodies, we rely on our brains to help translate these noises so we can enjoy them. But how does our brain respond to these sounds? Is there one particular part of the brain that makes feeling music possible, or does multiple parts of the brain work together in unison?
Whether you enjoy listening to pop, classical, rap, jazz, or reggae, you may be surprised to learn that many different parts of the brain light up in response to music — including those that elicit emotion. Recently, researchers have begun looking into how our brains process music to understand why we respond to it in the ways we do. Follow along as El Dorado Hearing explains how the brain responds to sound.
How Sound Is Transmitted to the Brain
Before diving into how the brain responds to sounds, it’s essential to understand how music is transmitted from your ears to the brain. When listening to music, the sound waves from the speaker or musical instrument travel to reach the outer ear. Once they reach the middle ear, the sound waves cause a vibration of the eardrum and surrounding ear bones.
The sound makes its way through the inner ear, where it interacts with the fluid-filled tiny hair cells that react to different tones and pitches of sounds. The ear translates these vibrations from the music into electrical signals that are carried into the brain by nerve cells to the cerebral cortex. The cortex and other areas of the brain work together to analyze different elements within the music, such as rhythm, pitch, and dynamics — ultimately translating the sound for your enjoyment.
How the Brain Responds to Sound
Historically it was believed that music was processed in one part of the brain, but researchers have uncovered that isn’t the case. Now that we’ve covered how sound travels through the ear to reach the brain, it’s time to look into how the brain responds to these musical melodies. Here’s how the brain responds to sound.
- Rhythm – Even if you aren’t a good dancer due to a lack of rhythm, you don’t need to worry about your brain not being able to help determine the rhythm of a song. On the right side of the brain lies the belt and parabelt, which are responsible for determining a song’s rhythm. In some instances, the motor cortex and cerebellum get even involved.
- Pitch and Tone – To recognize and understand the pitch or tone, your brain relies on the auditory cortex. Along with the auditory cortex, your brain may also utilize the assistance of the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex to analyze a melody or harmony.
- Memory – When you have a favorite song, you likely know every word. You may even be able to name the song after only hearing the first few seconds of the melody. Your recognition of music is due to memories that are stored in the hippocampus.
- Performance – You may not only listen to music but also perform musical acts! Whether you’re singing in a musical, playing an instrument, reading music, or dancing to your favorite song, your brain will be lighting up in the cerebellum, motor cortex, sensory cortex, and visual cortex.
- Emotion – This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but music can trigger feelings in an individual. This can range from joy to sorrow, depending on the melody and lyrics that your brain is working overtime to decipher. However, the emotional response to a song is caused by the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and cerebellum lighting up when hearing music.
Schedule a hearing test with El Dorado Hearing of Tucson
Don’t miss out on the joy of music by letting your hearing loss get worse. Instead, we recommend scheduling a hearing evaluation with El Dorado Hearing. Our hearing specialists are highly experienced and provide you with an in-depth hearing assessment to evaluate whether you have hearing loss and the extent to which the loss affects you.
We strive to make our hearing offices comfortable where everyone feels welcome. For personalized hearing testing in Tucson, AZ, make El Dorado Hearing of Tucson first on your list. We’ll help you find the proper hearing aids to restore your hearing and help minimize the risk of cognitive impairment as you get older.
If you are ready to regain control of your hearing, visit us at one of our hearing clinics. Contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our caring and expert hearing specialists!