Hearing vs Listening
Hearing is access to acoustic information. Listening, however, requires attention and intention. Normal hearing alone does not assure that one is a good listener. We all know people who have normal hearing but are lousy listeners. Conversely, many of our patients have impaired hearing, yet are wonderful listeners. Listening is a skill that requires effort, and for a person with a hearing loss, that effort must be particularly concentrated.
“We hear with our brains, not with our ears”
You don’t actually “hear” a sound until the brain’s hearing centres receive electrical signals from the ear, process those signals and generate some reaction – like getting out of the way of an on-coming car as you cross the street.
Well, not only do the hearing nerves weaken over time, the hearing centres of the brain also tend to weaken as a result of auditory deprivation. In other words, by delaying the hearing impaired ear with adequate stimulation there is a likelihood that the brain’s hearing centres become lazy and therefore alters the brain ability to correctly process speech.
As advanced as hearing aid technology has become, hearing aids alone cannot produce the listening skills or comprehension needed for communication. Hearing aids are designed to provide access to as much acoustic information as possible, but they do not directly modify the user’s brain or the user’s behaviours.
In essence, introducing sound to an auditory system that has been deprived of sound is likely to alter the way in which sounds are perceived and represented by the ear.
2 hearing aids or 1 hearing aid
Another cause of auditory deprivation is single-ear hearing aid use. This asymmetrical setup causes one ear to take on more of the listening activity than the other, weakening the unaided ear over time. You may have saved a few bucks by purchasing a single hearing aid rather than a pair, but you are depriving one ear from sound and causing the nerves on that ear to slowly weaken. Bottom line? Over time, that unaided ear is going to lose more and more functionality and when you do get around to buying a pair of hearing aids or adding a second hearing aid, that unaided ear will have a harder time adapting to sound.
And get this – the recovery of the hearing centres of the brain also weaken slowly over time. Starting to get the picture?
Why? When the hearing nerves and the areas of the brain responsible for hearing are deprived of sound, they atrophy – weaken – making recovery from hearing loss through mechanical means, aka a hearing aid, that much more difficult. The fancy term used by hearing professionals is auditory deprivation.
The key to hearing better longer is to keep the ear bits active and NOT let them atrophy. Through the use of hearing aids – early, when you first notice hearing loss – you’ll enjoy a better quality of hearing longer. You need to make sure that you have been recommended a hearing aid that will not only work well for you in quiet, but also in noise. People who do not find benefit in noise tend to remove them in these situations initially and end up later not wearing them at all. So it is critical you find the right hearing aid.
Value Hearing offers a hearing assessment like no other that uses accurate testing to pin point the hearing aid that will work best for you in all circumstances.