BRAIN HEALTH | 10.17.2015 | BY DAYA ALEXANDER GRANT, PH.D., M.S.
Silence often makes people uncomfortable. We use phrases like “awkward silence” and “eerily quiet” to describe soundless moments. But why do we have such an aversion to silence? Is it because we’ve simply gotten used to endless noise?
Just for a moment, become aware of your surroundings and shift your attention to the sounds in your environment. Do you hear cars? Planes? People talking? Dogs barking? The hum of a refrigerator? Notice how frequently your mind jumps from one sound to the next. The brain uses a lot of energy processing those sounds, filtering relevant signals from noise. Interestingly, a 2013 study at Duke showed that two hours of silence per day was more effective than auditory stimuli to potentiate the development of neurons in the hippocampus (the part of the brain related to memory).
After a TBI, many people experience hypersensitivity to noise and become overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of sounds in day-to-day life. If this describes you and the hypersensitivity is debilitating, you may consider consulting with an audiologist who can provide you with ear filters, which are simply custom-fit earplugs. Otherwise, spend a few minutes in a quiet room or wear noise-canceling headphones to give your brain a break from noise.
We live in a loud world. So do your brain a favor and, at least once a day, enjoy a few minutes of restorative silence.