New Year's Resolutions for Hearing Aid Users

New Year's Resolutions for Hearing Aid Users

With a new year we have some suggestions for a year filled with better hearing!


Wear your hearing aids more often

“It doesn’t really matter if I wear hearing aids, right?”  Wrong! As shown by Science Daily (2011), and numerous other researchers, when even a mild hearing loss is left untreated, it can lead to brain atrophy (a weakening of the brain pathways associated with processing speech and other sounds) in older adults. What this can ultimately lead to is an increased difficulty in understanding speech and decreased cognition.

As an audiologist, we have all observed the complaint that despite speech being audible, the patient just does not understand what is being said. Often described as “I hear, but just can’t understand”, it is a very common complaint heard in an audiology office of patients prior to a hearing test. Many people assume that if a hearing aid makes sounds louder, that should solve all of their difficulties – but, it is not that simple.

More and more evidence is mounting showing that those who have hearing loss, but fail to obtain or wear hearing devices run the risk of auditory deprivation, which is essentially depriving the brain’s auditory pathways of the sound stimulation it needs to continue to function. Over time (as quickly as one year!), this can result in a degredation of the hearing pathways that can result in increased difficulty understanding speech. A study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows that declines in hearing ability may accelerate gray mater atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to successfully comprehend speech.

So, the old adage use it or lose it may come in to play here. Take this to heart and use the hearing instruments you have, or consider making the jump and starting the path to better hearing. The same study at the Perelman School of Medicine demonstrated that early intervention for hearing loss with the consistent use of appropriate amplification can slow the progression of speech comprehension difficulty.

“As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the brain,” said lead author Jonathan Peelle, PhD, research associate in the Department of Neurology. “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”