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Hearing impairments can occur in all parts of the ear, and dysfunctions of the outer or middle ear can generally be treated with medication or surgery. However, a good 80% of all hearing impairments are caused by dysfunctions of or damage to the inner ear. Today, modern hearing aids can compensate for most inner ear damage. However, no two cases of hearing loss are the same. Most often, people with a hearing impairment are unable to distinguish soft tones and high-pitched sounds and have difficulties hearing certain sounds such as whispers, children’s voices, or birdsong. It is only when hearing starts to deteriorate noticeably that we realize just how important good hearing is in our everyday lives – and how much we miss out on when we no longer hear well. The earlier we are properly fitted with hearing aids, the better, even if you only have a slight hearing loss.
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HEARING LOSS DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Some people with hearing loss receive the benefits of hearing aids almost immediately; however, for some, it can take time before the benefits of new hearing aids become apparent. (This also applies to someone who has already worn hearing aids and tries something new, with different frequency responses.) Research shows that it is sometimes impossible to judge right away, because of delaying treatment for hearing loss and lack of stimulation to the brain in late treatment stages. The good news is that the brain is flexible! If a person has a stroke, another part of the brain can take over what the damaged part was doing. This also applies to your hearing loss. The corresponding part of your brain, which has no input from your ears, gets rewired to do other things. Research shows that the brain makes little use of new information for 5 to 6 weeks, then gradually starts to use it from 6 to 12 weeks for your word recognition to steadily climb.
So, if hearing aids are worn consistently, this process will unfold as it should. However, if hearing aids are not worn consistently, the brain rewiring does not happen in the same way. As a result, the new hearing aid’s sounds are not recognized and processed as they should be, and the new hearing aid will sound unnatural. The best approach to wearing hearing aids is constantly just a wait-and-see approach, rather than having the hearing professional adjust program frequencies for various complaints right away.
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