As frequently mentioned in the blog, hearing loss generally goes unnoticed because it occurs gradually over time. There are usually subtle signs before you, or a loved one, realize that you need a hearing test. Have you noticed that you turn the volume up to hear your T.V. or listen to music? Even after a person is informed that they have hearing loss, on average, most of them wait about 10 years before they will get hearing aids.
What is Auditory Deprivation?
Please avoid the mistake of putting off your hearing health. Untreated hearing loss can lead to auditory deprivation in the long run. The sections of your brain that are vital for hearing can shrink or become atrophied due to lack of use.
Auditory deprivation is when the brain struggles to comprehend and process information because it is not receiving enough stimulation.
The brain will become active when it hears sounds and turns it into information that can be understood.
Untreated Hearing Loss and Brain Atrophy
Hearing is an activity for the brain. Ears funnel sounds to the brain as electrical impulses through the auditory nerve. Your brain will then translate the electrical impulses into sound.
Hearing loss leads to sensory deprivation. The auditory segment of your brain requires sounds to stimulate it and keep the mind agile. Mild hearing loss can lead to an under-stimulated brain, so it’s important to get help for your hearing loss as soon as you, or a loved one, notices these symptoms.
Untreated hearing loss can lead to atrophied auditory pathways, due to lack of usage.
When fewer sounds travel to the brain, the brain will respond by adjusting the way it works. Subtle hearing loss causes the brain to deal with auditory processing by focusing more on visual processing.
Exercise Your Hearing Abilities
If you don’t seek help for your hearing loss, it will become much more difficult to comprehend and process information. In other words, you might be able to hear speech sounds but not understand what is being said. You may feel as though you have cognitive decline, but it is actually hearing loss. But remember, untreated hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline.
Can Auditory Deprivation become Permanent?
There is still uncertainty as to whether the atrophied sections of the brain that convert sound is permanent or not. It can be different for each individual.
On a hopeful note, the brain is extremely flexible. It can adapt and shift when stimulated. New connections can be made for more information to be understood.
A study found that negative shifts in the brain can be improved when hearing aids are worn regularly.
What causes Auditory Deprivation?
Auditory deprivation is usually caused by a lack of treatment for a person’s hearing loss.
For instance, if a person has hearing loss and receives hearing aids, but does not wear the hearing aids regularly (or at all), this can lead to auditory deprivation.
If a person with hearing loss does not receive auditory stimulation, the connection between the ears and the brain becomes ineffective. The auditory nerve will start to atrophy and become weaker.
A different reason as to why auditory deprivation can occur is if a person experiences hearing loss in both ears, but only wears a hearing aid in one of their ears.
Auditory deprivation may also occur if the hearing aids do not fit correctly or properly programmed. This is why it’s important to have follow-up appointments and work with your hearing instrument specialist to tailor the hearing aids for your specific needs. Unlike eyeglasses, hearing aids may require a custom fit and will definitely require a customized program for your particular type of hearing loss. Your hearing will shift over time, so it’s important to regularly schedule appointments with your hearing instrument specialist.
Two Hearing Aids are Better than One
Only wearing one hearing aid - when you have hearing loss in each ear - will lead to poor results.
The ear that wears the hearing device will remain strong, but the other ear that does not have a hearing aid will become weaker and atrophy at a faster rate than the ear that is aided.
Remember, Adapting to Hearing Aids Takes Time
It will take time to adjust to listening, putting your hearing aids on, and wearing them from the moment you wake up to the time you go to sleep. This is particularly true if it has been a long time since you’ve been able to hear clearly.
You’ll be able to hear things like the hum of your refrigerator, the clicking sound of your blinker lights, birds chirping outside. It may be overwhelming at first, but your brain will eventually become accustomed to the sounds that you haven’t heard in years.
Wearing hearing aids all day helps the brain acclimate to the sounds, but it requires a lot of time and patience.
How to Prevent Auditory Deprivation
It is possible to prevent auditory deprivation by taking safety precautions when you know that you’ll be in a loud environment. Wear earplugs or earmuffs when attending a concert or any other noisy setting.
You should get your hearing tested annually, whether you are having trouble hearing or not. Mild hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline.
If you, or a loved one, need a hearing test, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a free hearing test and consultation. We offer several hearing aid styles and brands for a wide range of hearing loss.