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Nada Yoga - Medical Science From Yogic Point of View

Sri Anand Yoga is intrinsically related to the sharpening of our senses and thereby increasing our depth of grasping the reality around us, in order to explore the full potential of Joy in Living. One of the senses is ‘hearing’. Hearing is related to sound.

Let us understand these two aspects of the same reality.

We are mainly interested in the yogic aspects of hearing based on medical science.

Hearing is our auditory perception. It is our ability to perceive sounds by detecting vibrations as periodic changes in the pressure of a surrounding medium. Hearing is performed by the auditory system. Vibrations are detected by the ear and transduced into nerve impulses. Transduction is the translation of arriving stimulus into an action potential by a sensory receptor. A receptor cell converts the energy in a stimulus into an electrical signal. This is done by the hair cells in the inner ear.

The cochlea located in the inner part of the ear is filled with a fluid that moves in response to the vibrations from the oval window. As the fluid moves, 25,000 nerve endings are set into motion. These nerve endings transform the vibrations into electrical impulses that then travel along the eighth cranial nerve (auditory nerve) to the brain.

During old age hearing loss is a common thing. It is called ‘presbycusis’. The old person finds it hard to tolerate loud sounds and to hear what others are saying. Our hearing capacity impacts our health by way of social engagement, communication and mental state. Quality of life can decrease when the sense of hearing is impaired.

Scientists have observed following consequences of lowering the capacity of hearing

  • Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations

  • Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety

  • Impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks

  • Irritability, negativism and anger

  • Fatigue, tension, stress and depression

  • Social rejection and loneliness

  • Reduced job performance and earning power

  • Diminished psychological and overall health

Diabetes can cause nerve damage in your ears. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear. Low blood sugar over time can damage how the nerve signals travel from the inner ear to your brain. Both types of nerve damage can lead to hearing loss.

We have elaborately developed science about the mechanisms of hearing sound. However this is highly insufficient to understand how we make sense of what we hear as a sound. Without this bridge, all the sound which we hear will be pure gibberish. Medical science has made some headway in this direction.

But it is still falling far short of having a complete grasp of the subject. Let us understand what little we understand about this aspect. From the point of view of Anand Yoga, understanding the mechanisms of interpretation of the sound is very crucial.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that improves hearing. It can be an option for people who have severe hearing loss from inner-ear damage who are not able to hear well with hearing aids. However just by fitting the cochlear implant does not enable a person to understand the sound he hears. This is because the crucial final stage (we can call it a connecting bridge) of translating this sound into meaningful language needs a specific training of the brain. We learn this in our childhood right from our birth. But the person with hearing loss does not acquire this skill. This is a clear proof that just hearing sound does not enable us to understand the meaning of the sound. We need to program our brain in understanding the sound. And here exactly the mindfulness training of Sri Anand Yoga steps in to have maximum action potential developed in the brain for understanding the full spectrum of sound waves with possible superhuman capacities in future.

We have seen that there are 25,000 nerve ending in the fluid in inner ear which transform the vibrations into electrical impulses that then travel along the eighth cranial nerve (auditory nerve) to the brain. Are these nerve ending identical? Medical science has no answer to it. It is very likely that each of these nerve endings have its own signature sensitivity for transmitting a very specific and unique electrical impulse to the brain. We seem to have lost our ability to discern the diverse bouquet of auditory sensations we receive from external world through this whopping number of 25,000 nerve endings. Through the practice of Sri Anand Yoga e aim to regain this ability and full explore and exploit our physical machinery to have perception of a wide array of sound sensations.

As we have seen the brain plays an important role in our hearing. The brain translates impulses from the ear into sounds that we know and understand.

But the brain also discriminates relevant sounds from background noise and turns up the volume of our own speech.

When we record our conversation and then replay it, we hear lot of background noise like traffic noise, dogs barking, aeroplane sound etc which we have not noticed during the conversation. This is because our electronic recorder does not discriminate between the background noise and the conversation (though we have now tweaked the gadget to mimic this) while the human brain does this trick. It has a very positive advantage in letting us be focussed on the conversation and not getting distracted by the background noise. At the same time it also 'conditions' our brain to selectively hear what we want to hear. This affects our alertness to the reality around us. At Sri Anand Yoga, we develop the skill of selectively focussing our attention with mindfulness.

Finally, researchers have found that our brain may also play an important role when it comes to tinnitus (continuous and irritating ringing sound in the ear). Brain does the job of translating the sensation of sound into something meaningful to us.

This takes us to the next topic of ‘perception’ of sensory inputs. This is the process whereby sensory stimulation is translated into organised experience.

Since perception is a highly subjective matter, there is very little scientific research in this field of perception.

However it is the most important thing in Sri Anand Yoga. There are two aspects of perception. They are Innate versus learned perception. There is another theory of synthesis of constituent elements. It is called structuralism. It states that the everyday perceptual experience is structured or synthesised from ‘sensations’.

There is a wide prevalence of partial deafness or loss of hearing capacity (hypoacusis, dysacusis). Hearing loss affects almost 20% of the world population today.

Sri Anand Yoga plays a very important role in this process of perception of sound vibrations - both mechanical as well as interpretation. The process of ‘Playful Engagement with Life’ increases our capacity to enjoy our sensory perceptions. We will see how the process of Recharge and Boost up the Life Field will help us increase our capacity to intensely hear a wide range of sound vibrations. These will be covered in a separate note ‘Nada Yoga - Spiritual Basis’.


Further reading


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