Everybody hears differently: it’s in our DNA

By D. Luffman

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA for short, is the backbone of human life. It is what differentiates an individual from the rest of the world, and makes each person unique. The double-helix structure of DNA is composed of an arrangement of four bases, A, C,T, and G for short. This unique arrangement of bases forms a sequence which specifies amino acids. During protein synthesis, this amino acid sequence serves as the protein building block.


How does my DNA determine my hearing?

Why am I explaining the role of DNA in our bodies on such a scientific level? Because it is nearly impossible to comprehend how no two people can hear the same sounds in the same way without understanding this fundamental difference. We are all composed of different amino acid sequences, unique sequence arrangements which are unlike anyone else. In the same manner, one song can be transmitted to 10,000 radio listeners, but not two of these listeners will hear the song in the same way.

Typically, this is a great thing. It means when you hear a song, the sounds transmitted through your auditory canal are unique to you. You can perceive a song in a unique, individual way. It is safe to say we would all like to experience the best sound for our ears in order to build upon this unique ability we have. Yet hearing loss deprives many listeners of listening to their music in an optimized and individual manner.


DNA and hearing loss

For a number of reasons the general population is subject to hearing loss at some point in their life. Many reasons for hearing loss are known, such as age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise, or damage to the inner ear. The reasons for sudden hearing loss, or sudden sensorineural hearing loss, remain unknown. Researchers continue to debate if hearing loss can be caused by DNA mutations, viruses, or radiation-induced DNA damage. Regardless, the consensus is hearing loss persists on a case-by-case basis with few hearing profiles resembling one another. In a way, it could be said our hearing profiles differ from one another as much as our DNA does.


How can we hear the most of our music?

Why should music be presented in one form then? If we are all so different, from our DNA to our hearing profiles, why do we not optimize songs to match our individual profiles? When artists record a song, they have an intent for the listener, emotions they wish to convey, and a state of being which they aspire to. However, as previously discussed, it is near impossible for every listener to achieve these criteria, given our individual nature. Hearing loss causes listeners to lose the ability to hear certain frequencies, creating this unique hearing profile.

With different hearing profiles, there exists a need to find a way to listen to music in an individualized manner. A good comparison is vision. Vision varies from person to person. Conditions such as hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (loss of focus), myopia (nearsightedness), and others require some individuals to wear prescription glasses or contact lenses to obtain normal vision. Glasses enhance an individual’s eyesight, a personalized fit for their vision. Imagine we would all neglect our loss of eyesight as we now do with our loss of hearing. We would all watch TV without our glasses, and complain that the visual quality is not good enough! In the same way, individuals should have access to personalized sound based on their hearing ability. As the average person will spend 13 years of their life listening to music according to realwire.com, why not make this experience more enjoyable through personalization?