Archive for Hearing

Hospice and the Love Hormone

It was her voice I first heard as a child learning my way in the world. [Photo – London Scout/Unsplash.com]

On a thousand and more Saturday mornings, I called Mom.

We talked about nothing. We talked about everything.

Saturday early morning was our weekly date. There were times—I’ll be honest—that it smacked of an obligation. I should call Mom. There were also weekends where the call was interrupted by her schedule or mine. But over the course of those years, the calls were a fixture, a way for us, living in different zip and area codes, to connect for a few moments.

The last call was in the summer of 2013, a few weeks before she died. I miss her voice.

How much do voices matter?

Not long ago, I read about research conducted in 2010 by University of Wisconsin’s Leslie Seltzer. A biological anthropologist, here’s what Seltzer and his team of researchers found when they:

. . . tested a group of seven-to-12-year-old girls with an impromptu speech and series of math problems in front of a panel of strangers, sending their hearts racing and levels of cortisol—a hormone associated with stress—soaring.

Once stressed, one-third of the girls were comforted in person by their mothers—specifically with hugs, an arm around the shoulders and the like. One-third were left to watch an emotion-neutral 75-minute video. The rest were handed a telephone. It was mom on the line, and the effect was dramatic.

“The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone,” Seltzer says.

The girls’ levels of oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” and strongly associated with emotional bonding, rose significantly and the stress-marking cortisol washed away.

Wow! . . . was how I felt when first running across this research. My quick glance at other like-minded studies confirmed Seltzer’s simple, powerful insights about the impact of the human voice. Read More →

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On Dying and (not) Hearing

listenNear death, hearing is possibly our last form of active connection with the world around us.

Sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing usually fade with age. However, regardless of our accumulated birthdays, diseases (or the treatments for them) often limit our ability to sense anything other than sounds. Chatting, joking, or arguing while a loved one is lying motionless in a hospital bed are likely heard by everyone in the room.

I’ve witnessed doctors coaching siblings to continue sharing essential information with a seemingly comatose parent. And I’ve also witnessed nurses warning friends or family members to be careful with all conversations. The patient may hear the argument. The patient may comprehend that an adult child is berating a mother or father for not “pulling the plug.” I’ve been in rooms when individuals have joked about trivial things, completely ignoring their “loved one.” I’ve also been with people who stood on opposite sides of a hospital bed while debating money, cremation vs. burial, or where they’d have dinner later that night.

What is the last thing you want your loved one to hear?

Will you refer to him in the third person, as if he weren’t present in the room?

Will she overhear a casual cruel comment?

Will you criticize colleagues at work or whine about incompetent teachers at your kid’s school? Read More →

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