05 Mar I have been diagnosed with hearing loss, how long can I wait to wear hearing aids?
We often get this type of question from clients in our clinics and it opens up a discussion about the effects of hearing loss on the brain. Our ears were built to receive or gather sound and evolution has done a great job of locating our ears at the sides of our heads to be in the optimal position to gather as much sound as possible. However, ears are only one part of the story. Sound, speech and noise whatever stimulant is in our environment travels along the auditory nerve and on to our auditory cortex in the brain where it is processed, or “heard”.
If hearing loss is present, the sound is still being received by the ear, however the auditory nerve is damaged and the brain isn’t able to understand, or “hear” the sound. For a patient who has been diagnosed with hearing loss, the pathways involved in hearing weaken and the brain starts to lose its ability to effectively process sound. This is called auditory deprivation. The longer the brain goes without auditory stimulation, the more challenging it is for the brain to adapt once hearing aids are worn. Patients who address hearing loss sooner often have better outcomes.
In addition to the effects of auditory deprivation, hearing loss also impacts different aspects of daily living including depression, anxiety, insecurity and decreased social activity. Have you ever been at the dinner table with someone who is noticeably withdrawn from the conversation, not participating or not visibly enjoying the company around them? Often this is a sign of untreated hearing loss. Research has consistently shown that wearing a hearing aid dramatically improves these negative effects and has positive impacts on a patient’s emotional well-being.
So, how long should you wait? The simple answer is – don’t wait, see your audiologist and have an honest discussion about what is right for you.