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Auditory Deprivation – Why Treat Hearing Loss Early

April 23, 2013 | Auditory deprivation, General

When most people are faced with the fact that they may be losing their hearing, they will  often opt for denial. This is partly because hearing loss is usually very gradual, so you adapt to it and don’t realise it’s happening. The tendency is to think ‘I’ll deal with this later when the problem gets worse,’ or to focus on the fact that you can still hear perfectly well one-to-one, but not when someone has their back turned, or has an American accent on TV, or when you’re in a noisy restaurant. In fact, many people with early hearing loss will attribute it mainly to the fact that most people are starting to mumble!When most people are faced with the fact that they may be losing their hearing, they will  often opt for denial. This is partly because hearing loss is usually very gradual, so you adapt to it and don’t realise it’s happening. The tendency is to think ‘I’ll deal with this later when the problem gets worse,’ or to focus on the fact that you can still hear perfectly well one-to-one, but not when someone has their back turned, or has an American accent on TV, or when you’re in a noisy restaurant. In fact, many people with early hearing loss will attribute it mainly to the fact that most people are starting to mumble!
The main reason most people don’t take action is because they don’t think it matters. They think they can just as well deal with it next month or next year or in five years’ time when it becomes a real problem.
This is a mistake! The reason is auditory deprivation. What this means is that when the brain receives less auditory stimulus, the hearing pathways don’t get exercised so they start to atrophy and weaken, just like muscles that aren’t used. We have all heard the term ‘use it or lose it,’ and this definitely applies to the auditory cortex, and it’s proven by a growing body of research.
Evidence shows that ears not fitted with hearing aids lose acuity for speech recognition over time, compared to ears fitted with hearing aids.
This has only been known for about ten years and most doctors did not learn this in medical school. Therefore, unless your GP has attended recent hearing seminars and has personal interest in and knowledge of the audiology field, he or she may not give you this advice. But visit any audiologist, and they will.
Yes, your ears do matter. If you were told you had mild cancer, you wouldn’t dream of waiting until it became a real problem! Hearing loss is not life threatening (except when crossing the road) but like many other medical conditions, it is best treated early.
So the key to preserving your hearing, to hear better for longer, is to start early and make sure those pathways receive optimum stimulation. This means having your hearing checked and getting fitted with a hearing aid as soon as your friends and family start telling you you’re losing your hearing. Other people will always notice before you do, so listen!
Hearing aids help to prevent auditory deprivation by providing more sound to the ears in the frequencies where there is a weakness. This means the brain pathways get added stimulus where it is needed to keep those neurons firing.
Another method of preventing auditory deprivation is Sound Therapy. This method has a number of advantages which are different from those provided by hearing aids.

  • The Sounds being emphasised are very high frequencies. These are usually the first sounds lost with aging or noise induced damage. However hearing aids focus more on the mid range, the speech sounds, so may not provide as much needed stimulus in the high sounds. This is why Sound Therapy listeners often describe being able to hear and enjoy bird song or music which they hadn’t heard for many years.
  • Because of the complexity of the music and filtering, Sound Therapy provides a different type of stimulus which enhances brain performance, concentration, memory, creativity and sleep, in addition to reversing auditory deprivation.
  • Sound Therapy is very pleasant and relaxing and makes you feel better.
  • Sound therapy activates the middle ear muscles and engages many parts of the brain, improving the ability of the ear to focus. Thus it helps with auditory discrimination in background noise, a problem many people find hearing aids will not address.

But it is not a matter of either/or. If you need a hearing aid, you need a hearing aid, and the sooner you get one the better. If you need a hearing aid you will certainly benefit from using Sound Therapy as well, and will get more value out of the hearing aid and out of your ears.


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