Though it is an invisible condition, the consequences of untreated hearing loss are real and can affect many different parts of your life. Since we collect sound with our ears and process the sound in our brain, over time and without hearing assistance, we can lose the ability to understand the spoken word, as well as other sounds in our environments. This process is often referred to as “Auditory Deprivation.”
When the Brain Can’t Hear
Did you know that sound happens in your brain? According to Teri James Bellis, PhD, in her landmark book on Auditory Process Disorder, When the Brain Can’t Hear: “As sound travels through an imperfect auditory pathway, words spoken to the afflicted listener may become jumbled, distorting original meaning and rendering unintelligible.”
When you think about conversation, with all the sounds, the inflections and tempo changes, it makes communication extremely complicated. When a hearing loss has been present and untreated, the ability to follow the conversation can become extremely difficult. Without receiving the appropriate stimuli, the brain stops processing sounds like background noise and can no longer filter speech clearly.
People with untreated hearing loss may answer a question incorrectly, withdraw, smile and pretend that they understood the conversation. They may also stay quiet and not engage during group conversations. Unfortunately, over time, the awkwardness and discomfort of asking people to repeat themselves will cause people with untreated hearing loss to avoid social engagement. This isolation and social withdrawal is devastating to one’s socio-emotional well-being, and even more, it could be a major risk factor for developing dementia, especially in older adults.
The Medical Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Hearing loss ranks number three behind hypertension and arthritis. Often called the invisible disability, hearing loss happens slowly over time and may go unnoticed for years. According to an article in Post Graduate Medicine, by Drs. Shohet and Bent, “Loss of hearing is a national health problem with significant physical and psychological repercussions.”
Untreated hearing loss is connected to a number of medical conditions, such as an increased risk for dementia. Studies from Johns Hopkins have reported a link between untreated hearing loss and a heavier cognitive load for the brain, which could lead to a risk for developing dementia. At the same time, untreated hearing loss can be particularly troublesome when you are visiting the doctor and important information is relayed. In some cases, people have been “misdiagnosed” with Alzheimer’s disease because they were unable to follow the conversation.
According to otolaryngologist, Dr. John Shea Jr., of the famed Shea Ear Clinic, “If a person is hard of hearing, and doesn’t get hearing amplification, they are not hearing and they lose the ability to understand.” Once-familiar sounds may slowly begin to fade, like the hum of a refrigerator, and they become unrecognizable noise competing with spoken words. Dr. Shea continues: “When presented with amplification, or hearing aids, speech understanding becomes clearer. However, it is a continual process of improvement. Stimulating the brain with sound may help to overcome the Auditory Deprivation process, and getting help early is critical to
long term success.”
The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss
Fortunately, there are ways to treat hearing loss. The most common form of treatment is the prescription of hearing aids. By treating hearing loss, the use of hearing aids helps to maintain the speech recognition you have.
The first step is to schedule a hearing test. If a hearing loss is detected, our team at Preferred Hearing Solutions will work with you to find the best treatment solution to meet your hearing needs. It is important to remember that hearing aids do not restore your hearing to the level it once was, but they will significantly elucidate speech and environmental sounds. Hearing aids are designed to organize and analyze sound data in your environment and providing your ears – and indeed brain – with clear sound signals that you’ve been missing.
We recommend that you wear the best hearing aids you can afford, from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep, in both ears to hear optimally. Hearing aids help solve the problems people have with communication, and they help to preserve and protect the brain’s ability to recognize speech.
Although there is no cure for certain forms of hearing loss, most patients can be helped, especially when the problem is recognized early. Wearing amplification (hearing aids) has been shown to help preserve the remaining hearing and speech clarity.
Visit Us at Preferred Hearing Solutions
If you think you may have hearing loss, the most important first step is to have your hearing tested. Your results will identify which frequencies or pitches you do or do not hear. And, if you do have a hearing loss, getting help has never been easier and with today’s advanced technology-you will get clear, crisp, more natural sound. Visit us at Preferred Hearing Solutions today for a consultation.