Hearing loss, in most cases, occurs gradually over time. As a result, many people wait months or even longer before seeking professional help. You cannot delay doing something about your hearing loss and think that it will not affect you.
This is because, understanding sounds that you hear including speech, involves so much more than just the ear.
Once the ear has detected sound, it is sent via neural pathways to the many areas of the brain that process it. This allows you to understand what the ear has detected, whether it is music, environmental sounds or the spoken words. It is your brain that actually "hears and understands".
Hearing loss can prevent some of the sounds getting to the brain. As the hearing gets worse, the brain receives less and less sound stimulation and the hearing nerves and areas in the brain responsible for the processing of sound start to weaken. This is known in the field of hearing science as "auditory deprivation". Even if the hearing levels don't change, over time the brain continues being deprived of certain sounds and the effects on the brain are ongoing. Ultimately the brain can "forget" how to hear and process sounds properly and the largest effect is seen on the ability to understand speech.
The longer you go without sound, the greater the reduction of speech understanding and the more permanent the effect. Clinical studies are repeatedly showing that the sooner a hearing problem is addressed - usually by the use of hearing aids- the better.
In summary, the effects of auditory deprivation are:
- Trouble understanding speech
- Significant difficulty understanding speech in background noise
- Difficulty identifying where sound is coming from
- Psychological - anxiety, denial, frustrations, fatigue, shame, social isolation, depression, grief
- Dementia - people with severe hearing loss are more likely to develop cognitive decline
The best ways to prevent auditory deprivation are:
- Protect your hearing so you don't get a hearing loss in the first place
- If you feel you may have a hearing loss have it tested as soon as possible
- If you do have a hearing loss, early amplification (the use of hearing aids) can prevent auditory deprivation and help get the hearing pathways in the brain working again
- If you know you have a hearing loss, hearing aids have been recommended but you haven't made a decision to acquire them, don't delay further - give us a call on 1300 761 021
- If you have hearing loss and have hearing aids but are not wearing them, try to wear them or contact us so we can help you