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Dr. Nina Kraus – The Biology Behind Hearing

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Dr. Nina Kraus

Dr. Nina Kraus is a scientist, audiologist, and Professor of Neurobiology and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University. Her primary focus is on the biology of hearing, researching the process of neural encoding in speech and music, and advocating for best practices in education, health, and policy. She also has researched the plasticity of the brain in encoding with groundbreaking studies that follow participants from birth to 90. Her research has been federally funded and published for more than 20 years, changing the way we think about hearing.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Exploring the intersection between biology and hearing
  • The work that Dr. Nina Kraus and her lab are performing
  • Why hearing is a unique sense and how we use it
  • Some of the biological factors that affect hearing and comprehension
  • Dr. Kraus talks about why we need consistent care after getting hearing aids
  • The tools that are used for measuring and aiding hearing
  • Encouraging audiologists to use a holistic approach
  • Dr. Kraus shares what she loves most about her book, Of Sound Mind

In this episode…

Hearing is a sense that we often take for granted. We assume we’ll always have that ability until it starts to diminish or fail. Underneath the surface, however, is an incredibly complex system that makes it all possible. There’s still so much we’re learning about when it comes to the biology of hearing, and at the forefront of this research is Dr. Nina Kraus.

As a professor at Northwestern, Dr. Kraus has found some illuminating research on the plasticity of the mind and the science of auditory learning. Her lab, Brainvolts, seeks to discover more on the subject while also educating the greater public. Now she’s here to keep us in the know about her innovative studies and where the field is going.

In this episode of the ListenUp! Podcast, Dr. Mark Syms talks with Dr. Nina Kraus, a professor of Neurobiology and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University, to learn about the biology behind hearing and how it all works together. The two discuss a host of topics, including why hearing is such a unique sense, the latest tools for measuring hearing, and the overlooked factors behind hearing problems. They also touch on her book, Of Sound Mind, and the culmination of her research.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by the Arizona Hearing Center.

The Arizona Hearing Center is a cutting-edge hearing care facility providing comprehensive, family-focused care. Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from some sort of hearing loss, more than half of whom are younger than the age of 65. That’s why the team at the Arizona Hearing Center is focused on providing the highest-quality care using innovative technologies and inclusive treatment plans. 

As the Founder of the Arizona Hearing Center, Dr. Mark Syms is passionate about helping patients effectively treat their hearing loss so that they can stay connected with their family and friends and remain independent. He knows first-hand how hearing loss can impact social connection and effective communication. By relying on three core values—empathy, education, and excellence—Dr. Syms and his team of hearing loss experts are transforming the lives of patients. 

So what are you waiting for? Stop missing out on the conversation and start improving your quality of life today!  

To learn more about the Arizona Hearing Center, visit https://www.azhear.com/ or call us at 602-307-9919. We don’t sell hearing aids—we treat your hearing loss.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04  

Welcome to the ListenUp! Podcast where we explore hearing loss, communication, connections and health.

Dr. Mark Syms  0:15  

Dr. Mark Syms here, I’m the host of ListenUp! podcast where I featured top leaders in healthcare. This episode is brought to you by Arizona Hearing Center. The Arizona Hearing Center I help patients to remain independent by treating their hearing loss or remain connected to their family loved ones. The reason I’m so passionate about hearing loss is because I lost my brother Robbie twice, I lost him first to his hearing loss from radiation to his brain tumor, and then again from complications from the brain tumor itself. I am an E of E and T I only take care of yours I’ve performed 10,000 over 10,000 surgeries and treated 1000s of patients with hearing loss. I also have written a book called Listen Up: A Physician’s Guide to Effectively Treating Your Hearing Loss. You can learn more about that at listen up hearing calm and today I am excited because I have Dr. Nina Kraus. She is a professor at Northwestern University. She investigates the Norlin coding of speech and music and she and plasticity and she is the US nose chair. She has done earth shattering and pathbreaking research in sound and hearing for more than 30 years, she began her career measuring the response of a single auditory neuron and has gone on to show that the the auditory nervous system and the potential for reorganization, following learning these insights in basic biology have galvanized her to investigate auditory learning in humans. She’s also the author and we’re gonna talk about this of our new book Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World . This is a it’s an awesome book, I read it, and I highly recommend it. Thank you for coming on the podcast today.

Dr. Nina Kraus  1:51  

Well, thank you for inviting me. 

Dr. Mark Syms  1:53  

So tell me about how you know we all end up somehow where we are what was your pathway into this wonderful, amazing world that I’ve stumbled into and you’ve stumbled?

Dr. Nina Kraus  2:02  

Ah, you know, we are so lucky, we are so lucky to be working on sound. And I really did just stumble into it. You know, I grew up in a house where more than one language was spoken. My mom was a musician. I certainly had no idea that I was going to end up doing what I’m doing. But I went into I first went to college I majored in comparative literature, because I like to read and I knew some languages. And then I took biology, and I’ve been a biologist ever since a book that made a very big impression on me was one that I discovered it was called the biological foundations of language. And when I saw that title, I thought, Oh, this is wonderful. It is possible to blend the biology, the biology and the language. And and really, my work has always crossed a number of disciplines. And and that’s where I feel most at home. And maybe it’s also because, you know, I don’t Italian was my first language. But I don’t feel really Italian and I don’t feel really American. But I feel that I I exist at the intersection of these countries and

Dr. Mark Syms  3:25  

Countries to intersect that.

Dr. Nina Kraus  3:27  

That’s yeah. Oh, indeed. And I but I’m comfortable at the intersection. And I feel that way scientifically as well.

Dr. Mark Syms  3:35  

That’s great. I mean, you know, I got the preview copy, is your book out yet? Or is-

Dr. Nina Kraus  3:40  

It is it is it is available and and it’s doing well. So and I encourage people by publishers is saying, you know, get it’s it’s really doing well, they’re into a second printing and, and you know, there are all these supply chain issues, ya know? Anyway, I hope that

Dr. Mark Syms  4:02  

I mean, just with people think about the title Of Sound Mind how a brain constructs a meaningful Sonic World. I mean, you’re covering like such a broad number of topics there. Right. And I got a quick question. Is your husband a better guitarist than you? Because I think you said that.

Dr. Nina Kraus  4:17  

Oh, my goodness. My husband is a musician. You know, musician with a capital M. And he would be yes. Oh my goodness. He is a wonderful guitarist and bassist, drummer, he composes music, he builds amplifiers. I have a wonderful partner and and also, you know, during the pandemic, he has been doing his teaching from home. And so it’s been really nice from time to time to hear bits and bits of, of the sound that he and his students are making.

Dr. Mark Syms  4:55  

Oh, that’s a wonderful Sonic World. Yeah. Oh, well. Tell me about you know the work that you do in your lab.

Dr. Nina Kraus  5:03  

So at Brainvolts, we call our lab Brainvolts. And please, anybody listening, do visit our website

Dr. Mark Syms  5:10  

And sign up there. It’s amazing.

Dr. Nina Kraus  5:12  

We fell really strongly that we want to communicate our little discoveries to anybody who would like to know about them. Let’s start by taking the website tour. Because there is a lot there’s a little tour bus on the top of the homepage. And, and there’s a lot on that website. And it’ll help you find what you’re looking for. But what you’ll see on the homepage is panels that talk about are described the different the different topics that we study at Brainvolts. So we study music, we study concussion, we study rhythm, we study aging, language, reading disorders, bilingualism, a listening and noise. So we study many things. And you might ask yourself, you know, what, what are they doing at Brainvolts, it’s all under the umbrella of sound in the brain. And it also I think, is an indication of how pervasive sound is in our lives. All of these topics have sound at their core, and sound is increasingly under appreciated. One of the reasons I wrote my book is because I, you know, I, it is my, it’s my love letter to sound. And in this increasingly, visually dominated world of ours, I think we really lose sight of how absolutely crucial sound is for almost everything we do for almost everything that we think is important. And, essentially, sound connects us.

Dr. Mark Syms  7:01  

Yeah, I mean, you know, I look, there are some things that are visually beautiful, that evoke incredible emotion. But, you know, when I think about some of the things that sound can do, and the emotions that in evokes, at least to me personally, they’re much more broader, and they’re much more in depth. And that might be my own bias. But you know, I mean, people don’t really think about it, but somebody’s telling you, they love you is incredible thing to a sound to set of sounds to be able to hear. And, you know, I think it’s amazing. 

Dr. Nina Kraus  7:32  

Yeah, and if you think that, as a, as humans, you know, we have been communicating with each other for hundreds of 1000s of yours through sound, vision, in terms of communication, so writing is only 5000 years old. So, you know, our our brain is really, in terms of what we remember how we remember what we pay attention to, we are really wired for sound.

Dr. Mark Syms  8:04  

And as our primary form of communication as compared to timing and gathering and protection is sound.

Dr. Nina Kraus  8:11  

Absolutely, absolutely an also another. Another aspect of sound is is what you and I are doing right now, you know, his sound is in the moment. And sound connects us in a way that, you know, neither one of us have a script. But we are everyday improvisers. And I listened to you. And you know, we respond back and forth. And it is what Iain McGilchrist calls between this. And this between this is really one of the richest things that exists in the world, this this reciprocal interaction. And in my opinion, sound just embodies this between us more than anything else. Can.

Dr. Mark Syms  9:02  

Yeah, it’s fascinating, because I mean, if you just think about texting, right, I mean, you know, and how many, you know, you can see those spoofs of when people text and they have a misunderstanding, because somebody says something in the written language that, you know, there’s a spoof as compared to the spoken language. And it’s kind of interesting, because I was just thinking about what you’re talking about. And sometimes I have people who text me voice messages. And they’re actually much more rich than the written one, right? Because, yeah, but actually more efficient, amazingly.

Dr. Nina Kraus  9:37  

So there are a couple of things about that, first of all, with with sound like right now, for example, um, the sound is, the context is obvious. It’s right here. It’s immediate. So in terms of misunderstanding, it’s it’s harder to do We understand the context. Whereas when you’re reading something, you have to kind of build up and set up, you know, what are we talking about here? So, so the context really does matter. And it’s something that we can get very straightforwardly through sound.

Dr. Mark Syms  10:18  

Yeah, I’m just trying to think of like, kind of the evolution of just interactive tools. Right, you know, because the email is dominated for so long and texting and people, unfortunately, don’t call each other on the phone anymore. Right. So that

Dr. Nina Kraus  10:29  

Yeah, yeah. But but also, so people are have been surprised. And one of the of the things that really has grown lately, his audio books, no, I know, are supposed to I read your book by listening to it. And my children, by the way, it was your children reading it.

Dr. Mark Syms  10:50  

Yeah. Yeah. Great. Yes.

Dr. Nina Kraus  10:53  

That’s just so wonderful. And great voices all around. Because you know, when you read it, when you listen to an audiobook, you it you need to have good voices, they did a good job. Um, but people are surprised. They’ll say, you know, it’s easier to listen to I remember better. Yes. And if I’m reading,

Dr. Mark Syms  11:15  

which is contagious, when people read, they actually sometimes put the voice in their head anyway. So they’re using a cognitive construct of sound.

Dr. Nina Kraus  11:23  

But also, from a biological standpoint, we know that, that sound and memory are really, really, really, really tightly linked. And again, I think this is yet another reason why sound is so important because it our Sonic memories make us who we are, you know, you have the sounds of your children’s voices. I have the sound of my children’s voices. And you know, when they call, you know, we have this, we say, it’s so good to hear the sound of your voice. Well, why is that? It’s, it’s because you have years of this back and forth sound to meaning connection, that is part of who you are. And you will respond in a certain way to the sound of your children’s voices in a way that nobody else will know.

Dr. Mark Syms  12:18  

That is so true. And actually, you know, as I think at it from a parenting educational point of view, some of my kids are more auditory and visual learners, right. And so that whole concept to right.

Dr. Nina Kraus  12:29  

I don’t know, I really push against this auditory visual. First of all, I really see that making sense of sound really integrates all of our senses. True. And and I have a wonderful book written by Laura Otis, it’s called Rethinking Thought, she kind of starts with his premise of, you know, people talk about auditory and visual learners. And she blows that out of the water by interviewing scientists and mathematicians and artists and writers, and it in and asking them how they think. And, you know, it is it is this this, this confluence, this this combination, you it’s everything, it’s impossible. I mean, you cannot separate these things. And, and, you know, I think we like to dichotomize things, because it’s easier to think about it, but it’s wrong.

Dr. Mark Syms  13:30  

Yeah. So I guess as as I process, what you’re saying, is what I should probably say is, that’s how they prefer to learn. It doesn’t mean they’re there solely that type of learner, right? And so, you know, some of my kids would rather read a book and some of them would rather hear a book, but I understand what you’re saying that is true. They do. They try to say, well, you’re an auditory learner. So everything needs to be auditory. And it’s not it’s multi sensory to really integrate. And especially these concepts are not simple. So oftentimes, you’ll do better to use multiple senses. I’m just now just talking about general education. So but that’s really amazing event. So tell me a little bit about like, what led you to write the book like, what was the what spawned?

Dr. Nina Kraus  14:09  

Well, I’ve been teaching a class called biologic biological foundations of speech and music. Sound familiar? Yes. I’ve been teaching it for over 20 years, and I have started the class from from from scratch. And so I’ve been doing, you know, research on this book now for all these years. And and my students have been asking me you know, what, don’t you have a book? Don’t you have a, you know, where can I get this information all in one place? Because I’ve just, you know, been assigning various readings. And I And also, the students in my biological foundations often many of them are their undergrads, art majors, biology Engineer. Hearing neuroscientists display awesome speech in audiology. So really, really different. And, and I realized my favorite audience is my favorite audience is, is the curious. The what you might call a curious outsider, you know, someone who is not necessarily a specialist. I mean, I love talking to specialists, but I really, really like talking to people who are

Dr. Mark Syms  15:33  

Who do complete learning.

Dr. Nina Kraus  15:35  

But everybody, it turns out, I mean, then, and again, I’ve experienced this over the years. You know, dinner conversations are just as I talked to people, people are interested in sound and the brain. And I’m thinking, Oh, my goodness, they’re there. Everybody has a story about their, their father with hearing loss their child with an auditory processing problem, that you know, and they want to be better musicians, they learned there’s, should I teach my child another language, I mean, they’re all these questions. And, and, you know, and head injuries is another one, where, you know, making sense of sound is one of the hardest jobs we ask our brain to do. And so getting a concussion will disrupt that. So, you know, it’s, it’s kind of, it’s everywhere, and I wanted to put this all in one place in language, that, that anyone can, can understand my, you know, my audiences is a, you know, an interested high school student, um, and, and, and old man, and, and anybody in between. It’s full of stories, personal stories, because science, or you don’t want to get across science is done by humans. And I’m a human with my own little stories. Um, there is art in science. I’ve been working with an illustrator, there are 80 pictures in the book. Yes. Very nice. And they’re even more beautiful in color. You know, the book is grayscale. Um, and so, so it really was, is my desire. And it’s funny that people have read the book and said, um, I never I didn’t realize that sound was so important and that it was so much a part of my life. Um, you know, because when I was getting ready to publish the book, I was thinking, why am I even writing this book? Everything I’m saying is so obvious. obvious to you, not to them. But but you know, people really come back and and and say, These things, and I’m, so it makes me want people to love sound and appreciate it honor it. Um, because sound is invisible. Right. And so people don’t realize that it’s such a powerful force, because taken for granted, right? whether, you know, powerful forces like gravity, right? Also, you can’t you know, but it’s a very powerful force. Um, and, but we, as long as we begin to recognize it, and we start to also, um, you know, it’s also my call to action, what can we do to strengthen our sound minds? What can we do to help create a sonic world that is, is more sonically friendly?

Dr. Mark Syms  18:57  

Yeah, it’s kind of interesting, because, you know, your story about writing the book is similar to mine, as you know, I wrote a book and, and they do the exact same, you know, what happened to me is somebody said, Hey, you need to write all this down. And I was like, What do you mean is you should write a book, and then all of a sudden, I’m writing a book. And so it’s of a similar nature that you know, you want to record it all. But the other thing is, obviously, I’m coming from a, you know, we’re talking about the same thing minds from a treatment point of view. But it is amazing, because what I want to do is get people to get to your stuff, if that makes sense to be able to appreciate all of the wonderfulness of sound. And so we’re kind of coming at it. You know, the thing I would say about your book having read it, is the curation is excellent. In other words, you’re right. These are very perhaps things that everybody knows which really isn’t true. But you are how you curate it is wonderful. And seeing it through your lens is very enjoyable.

Dr. Nina Kraus  19:50  

Thank you. You know, I do want to say that in reading your book, I think a core message of your book is you know, that you don’t, you don’t dispense hearing aids you treat hearing loss. And in treating hearing loss, you are treating the individual you are treating the whole person and the kind of hearing health and hearing health care. And even the devices that people might end up with, are going to change, they’re going to differ depending on the person. And, you know, I’m my book is, is really the biological story of how we all hear the world differently. Right, regardless of our audiogram. Right, are different people. And so, of course, you’re hearing health care is going to be unique. And and but it’s something that one has to be to really fight against in, in this world where, you know, people are, you know, biologists, audiologist, EMTs, are seen as interchangeable commodities, as our patients, you know, how many patients did you see, that’s not just, you know, it’s just not true, it’s not good medicine, it’s not good science. And so, you know, to really make people appreciate how important the individual is, and how important also having a longitudinal relationship, both for health care, and also some of the best science is when you have, you know, a subject as his own control. And, and, and, and, you know, there’s just a world of knowledge there that that people are just throwing out the window just ignoring?

Dr. Mark Syms  21:49  

Well, you know, it’s, it’s, if you want to think about it in terms of like algorithms, right? It’s where the algorithm comes from, does it come inside of the device? Or does it come side of, you know, a more holistic algorithm of the interaction of the patient with the world, and then the providers and the technology, and sometimes people can’t look at it, it’s too complex. And it’s not as cookie cutter ish, but it’s really the way all healthcare should be whether or not it is or isn’t, right. I mean, even managing your blood pressure is not just a pill, right? It’s your relationship with your doctor and them explaining to you and your lifestyle, and what you do, and what you aren’t willing to do, and how worried you are and your family history, it’s always so much more complex than five high blood pressure, just get a pill and that’s it. Right. And so it’s, it’s people’s paradigm about health and problems, and I think your book drives at home in terms of how complex it is to just say, well, there’s just one program and everybody gets it, I mean, you know, blow a statistic to me is, you know, 90% of hearing aids out there are on basically what they call factory settings off of the, you know, generic algorithm that these manufacturers make, and you can believe that those people can hear a lot better if they actually got somebody to delve in deeper to their hearing experience and their sound experience to get them to be.

Dr. Nina Kraus  23:02  

Yeah, and, and, you know, their brain is constantly changing. And, you know, for various reasons, and it’s just kind of what it does. And having, having, it’s wonderful, it’s something to celebrate, and something to use and to have a partner, you know, I mean, I’m thinking boy, if I if I needed a hearing aid right now, um, you know, I think the kind of health care that that you’re talking about, you know, where you really would have someone who would not only do and an evaluation but would follow me year after year after year and constantly informed me about updates in the field in terms of technology and constantly monitor me and so, you know, one of the things that is my hope, also mark you know, in my book and what we do at brain volts is we we can measure sound processing in the brain with tremendous precision using the the FFR the frequency following response. So, you know, of course, as I’m talking to anybody who is listening, the neurons in their brain are producing sound which we can measure with scalp electrodes, and we have figured out a way of, you know, it just has a visual object has these obvious, a shape, size, texture, and, and, and, and feel, to add color, these are all ingredients, and sound also has ingredients. Of course, all of this is invisible, invisible. So So you know there are ingredients like pitch and timing tambor phase loudness, all of these ingredients. And the the the, the the metaphor that I use in my book is of a mixing board, you know, you have these ingredients, you have a mixing bowl full of ingredients that enter your ear and go into your brain. And then you think of your brain as a mixing board where the faders on the mixing board go up and down. And we can get a sense of how good a job your brain is doing processing these different sound ingredients. So that we’ve learned a lot of things is this taught us a lot. But my my hope is that this kind of assessment and reassessment will become the standard of care for people who are managing hearing health so that this will inform hearing aid decisions, it’ll inform which aids, it will help in fitting, it will help in monitoring over time, you have to have yet another tool in the hearing health care’s toolbox to understand what is going on in this individual who they have in front of them.

Dr. Mark Syms  26:20  

Yeah, I mean, I will tell you extrapolating that out to the cochlear implantation world, in my clinical experience, you know, I some of the poor performers that I’ve come across in my practice people who didn’t do well, I believe it was cognitive, right? Like they had had cognitive issues and just weren’t able to process the signal that the cochlear implant was putting out. And so you’re talking about the types of tools that would be great, right? If we could do that before, not that they shouldn’t get an implant. But if we could prognosticate and tell them like, look, you know, you are processing Well, or, you know, why do people have degrading performance? Well, your your testing could, could tell us that right, that they’re not processing the information as well.

Dr. Nina Kraus  27:00  

Yeah, no, absolutely. Because, you know, again, one of the points in my book is that the hearing brain is vast, you know, people, I think, classically, think of the hearing pathway as this ear to brain. And then there is the brain to ear pathway that the brain, the ear has to listen to the brain. But importantly, the hearing brain engages how we think, how we feel, how we move, and how we integrate information from other senses. And so you know, more formally put, we can say that the hearing brain engages our cognitive, sensory, motor and reward circuitry. And we know this is the case from a biological perspective. And so a response like the FFR really gives you a snapshot, it gives you a snapshot of all of, of these factors, because it really does track with your auditory memory. So your cognition, your auditory attention, your ability to to bind information from vision, and hearing, all of these things are, can be revealed in this, this snapshot of auditory processing this biological event, which I think really could improve the kind of a hearing health care delivery that you advocate.

Dr. Mark Syms  28:46  

Yeah, no, I mean, you know, it’s going to be a custom, where we’re really measuring those things in which you can do and, you know, getting beyond just thinking it’s the technology, right? It’s not just the hardware, which is to me, the beginning. And I will tell you, it’s kind of funny how I’ve evolved, you know, when you look at the diagrams that we use, you know, just to counsel patients, it’s like, the here is like this big, and then on the side, it just says brain, right. And I when I was explaining it, because I, if you do this to scale, like your brain goes through the ceiling and through the floor, and we’re not putting out at all, but you’d be amazed at how much that really is where all of this stuff happens, right? And then you know, there’s other places where that comes into play for me, you know, clinically, it’s like, Look your brains involved in this process, and to be able to give a little look into that would be amazing to help people to understand and to counsel them and to see what we could get like, you’re talking about maybe a fine tuning, right, that you can even get the stuff better if you adjusted the instrument. Absolutely.

Dr. Nina Kraus  29:44  

So I think it would help you first of all, figuring out what are the bottlenecks. So So first, you you know, you measure the brain’s response to speech. And you look at you know, where the strengths and weaknesses are in terms of the faders on the mixing board, and then you know, you think about, okay, well, so I bet this person would benefit from this kind of hearing aid. So you put this kind of a hearing aid on and now you measure the same put it on that that same brain. And you see what does that hearing aid do, and you might try a different hearing aid. And you can see which hearing aid seems to be more effective, or which setting gives you the better audition or perception. Exactly. And then over time, you know, as someone takes their hearing aid home, and uses it, then they come back again, and you compare, well, you know, that this is what the faders looked like, this is this is, you know, how they were measuring the harmonics, the fundamental frequency, the phase, all of these aspects of sound, this is how they were processing them, before they experienced it, the hearing aid in their daily life, after using it for two months or three months, then they come back, and then again, based on what you see, you can, again, have a feedback on gee, this part really still is not, you know, we’re not getting the strength of the of the fundamental frequency or of the harmonics or of some, some aspect of sound and, you know, knowledge of the technology. And maybe if I change the hearing aid this way, or that way, and you can actually change the settings, put it back on the person and see, well, what does this do?

Dr. Mark Syms  31:48  

So it’s almost like your personal trainer of your hearing. Right? If that makes it because you really got to, you know, rather than just kind of go out and do it, you know, a video or follow an app, you’re really like focusing in on what particular weaknesses, that’s really that’d be amazing. Alright, so you’re gonna roll that out by next week? So there you go. All right, we’ll give you a little a couple of more weeks to get that out. That’s great. Is that actually where is that in terms of going from? I mean, is that commercially being used anywhere?

Dr. Nina Kraus  32:19  

Well, there are some clinics that are using it. And, you know, I mean, really, anybody who has some physiologic recording equipment is likely to be able to, to measure this. And, and really the tough, the toughest part is, is interpreting the findings. And, you know, there are some very basic guide guidelines, a, we’ve written about this extensively, we have norms, we have stimuli that we make readily available to anybody who wants them, we have a toolbox that we make readily available to anybody who wants to use it for analysis. And and when we have, as you mentioned, at the beginning, we have oceans of publications. And in fact, my colleague, Jen Chrisman and I, we just wrote a second tutorial that was published in, in hearing, hearing research. That is an FFR tutorial on analysis. Because, you know, people come from all over the world to want to learn what it is that we do. And so we really want to make that information as available as possible

Dr. Mark Syms  33:46  

to people. That’s wonderful. Somebody in the communication world is communicating effectively. That’s actually wonderful. I mean, when you think about it, right, because you’re even organizing your website in a good communication way. So it’s a it’s a holistic approach to getting information out there. That’s, that’s really, so what’s your favorite part of your book?

Dr. Nina Kraus  34:06  

Oh, every part of it, really everything. So the first third of the book, or maybe even quarter of the book, first quarter of the book is how sound works. And I feel often like, like, the little kid who wants to be told the same story over and over again. I mean, I have told the story of how sound works. I’ve been told the story. And each time you know, it’s like, Oh, tell me again, this is such a fun story. And and so I love that, that that first part, which is really talking about, you know, we have this movement of air and and that then our brain needs to make sense of all that information that is in the air that we don’t see, but that our brain can really make sense of and that our hearing brain is the speediest of all of our senses The information, you know, in microseconds of timing has to be processed in microsecond timing. And, and it’s kind of beautiful to be able to see the sound wave reflected in the Brainwave. And I also want to talk a little bit about my, you know, my scientific process in, in, in sort of developing some of the things that we do at Brainvolts. Um, but then most of the book, two thirds of the book is our Sonic cells, which is really, um, you know, taking topics like noise, noise, rhythm, aging, aging bilingualism concussion? Yeah, um, Birdsong.

Dr. Mark Syms  35:55  

That’s right over there. That’s actually fascinating. The birth song whenever that was a great chapter.

Dr. Nina Kraus  35:59  

And really just applying these ideas of how sound works, but really applying them to the things we care about, you know, how can I teach music better, you know, the fact that there is this, that that language is rooted in sound, in kids with, with, with, with with reading problems, most of them really have difficulty with sound processing. And so if you’re not making the sound meaning connections, first, you’re never going to make the connection between the visual item and the sound. So, you know, kind of giving, giving that that perspective, and always, you know, with it, the idea of what can we do to, to make the best decisions for for ourselves and our children and our society. And, you know, I talk about some of the work that we did in, in schools, where, and many of these schools were for low income kids, many of the kids had linguistic deprivation. So they weren’t spoken to that much. By their, their, their, their families. And, you know, we know that it’s really important, it’s really important to talk to your kid, you know, and and, and so people ask me, How do I strengthen my sound mind? And I’m thinking, well, um, you know, talk to your kid, don’t talk to your phone. Yeah, work it out. Um, and, and so that, that, that strengthening of the sound binders is something that I think if we realize how important it is, we realize that there’s so many little things that we can do in our daily lives to, to make sound processing stronger in our brains, and in our relationships with others. And the other thing that is fascinating to me is how sound connects us also to other living things. So, you know, there’s the birdsong chapter, you know, so animals use sound tremendously for their survival, um, but even even plants and trees mean, every plumber will tell you that, um, that the roots of trees are going to find their way into the pipes. Why is that? Because the roots can sense. It’s about 100 hertz, that’s the flow of water and the trees can sense that and they communicate the plants. There are our flowers that will only release their pollen when they hear a bee buzzing at a particular frequency that they know so I mean, you can imagine you know, how many did you ever think about average blows me away to your think about a plant, having tuning to particular frequencies, that it’s going to release its pollen only when a bee at a certain frequency buzzes around it? Um, so it’s, it’s just, I am an R, I am just an R. of sound and it’s important to us and I hope that I I convey that and my 10% You know, what we know and what we don’t know. You know, I think also Really admitting that we don’t know, we really don’t know much? We don’t know anything.

Dr. Mark Syms  40:06  

We’re just scratching the surface on this. Oh my goodness, which is wonderful.

Dr. Nina Kraus  40:10  

Yeah. Um, so I hope it will make good reading at any time. And especially, you know, I just think about people. You know, maybe this will make good holiday reading, you know, when people have a little bit of time to, to sit isn’t read and, and then, you know, be surrounded by the sounds of of family.

Dr. Mark Syms  40:39  

It’s great. So the book is , where can they get the book?

Dr. Nina Kraus  40:46  

Anywhere? Anywhere you buy books, so you can assume, of course, Amazon and it’s in Kindle and in audiobook format. The hardcopy is great. It has all the pictures. I love. Yeah, I think that that’s, that’s important. Um, and, you know, I like to support my local bookstore. So, you know, people can go to your local bookstore and get it right. So my local bookstore is called bookends and beginnings. And that, you know, they’re, they’re just a wonderful place. It’s been around for decades.

Dr. Mark Syms  41:28  

And especially now that they’re open, thankfully for them, right? That’s right. 

Dr. Nina Kraus  41:32  

That’s right. So, you know, the book is is easy to find at the moment, until they run out there between the first and second printing. And I hope that, that people will, will read it, I really hope that they will read it from beginning to end. And also let me know, I love to know. Um, you know, I think some authors are really driven by hits and sales mean, to me, it means much more to me. If somebody reads the book, and tells me what they think about it, what resonates with them would fall short, then, you know, a book that that just makes a lot of sales. Yeah, you know, you can make a lot of sales, but if people don’t really read it and think about it, um, that’s just not as important to me. And to me, it’s really important that people get some meaning from it. So I hope that happens. I haven’t

Dr. Mark Syms  42:33  

took pay for it personally. It was great. I really enjoyed reading it. It was wonderful. I you know, I mean, I know I’m in the area, so it’s in my wheelhouse, but it was a great perspective on it. So thank you for writing the book. What’s your favorite stuff?

Dr. Nina Kraus  42:45  

I love? Yeah. So that that’s such a, you know, I have so many favorite sounds. That’s like, that’s like asking me.

Dr. Mark Syms  42:54  

What’s your favorite dessert? Right when you like?

Dr. Nina Kraus  42:56  

Or Who’s my favorite kid?

Dr. Mark Syms  42:59  

Right? When you told me I read that you took you put bet and all of them in their lunches that they’re your favorite. So that’s right.

Dr. Nina Kraus  43:06  

Yeah. You figure it out. It sounds like yep. A story I tell them the book. Um, but I love the sound. I love the sound of my my children’s voices. I love the sound of my husband as he plays music. I love what we see I love when we when we sing together. You know, because all you know, my we all play some music. And, and it’s just it’s really fun to, to, to sing together. Oh, there’s so many sounds that I cherish. And we also I tell a story in the book, where I’m talking to my son who is he was in in the UK at the time. And he’s listening to me on my cell phone. And at a certain point, he interrupts what I’m saying. And he exclaims Evanston birdies. Now I live in a town called Evanston, which is Northwest, you know, where Northwestern is. And this is where my son grew up. And, and it was just, it was just wonderful. How from across the ocean. Everybody knows the sound of home, you know, the sound of home. And that’s magical. It’s wonderful. And we all have our own sounds of home and I like that you ask people that question because you know, our brains are all individually tuned to hear Sound in our own way, depending on our experience with it,

Dr. Mark Syms  45:06  

and it also to me, it drives home why we’re all so passionate about what we do, right? Like, this is a wonderful world, right? The world sounds so well, thank you so much. This has been I mean, we could go on for a really long time, because this is fascinating. If people want to get a hold of you, how would they, you know, go to Brainvolts? Or where would they?

Dr. Nina Kraus  45:25  

Yeah, so it really is just send me an email. Um, and, and I really, I hope that people do spend some time on the website and, and, and reading the book, and, and if anybody wants to get in touch with me, I’m easy to reach. Great.

Dr. Mark Syms  45:51  

Thank you so much for coming on. This has been really wonderful. And I hope everybody goes out and gets a copy of your book. Thanks for coming on. 

Dr. Nina Kraus  45:58  

Mark. Thank you.

Outro  46:02 
 Thanks for tuning in to the ListenUp! podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get updates on future episodes.

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