One of the most used phrases in our practice is “be patient. It takes time to adjust to hearing again.” Sometimes we do use the analogy of eyeglasses to hearing aids, but they are actually very different. Glasses help you see better and hearing aids help you hear better, but that’s where the similarities end.
When people have a loss of visual acuity, they generally notice that images are blurry or not clear. For most people that need glasses, or contacts, the lenses are prescribed to compensate for refractive errors. Refractive error means that the shape of your eye does not bend light correctly, resulting in a blurred image. The main types of refractive errors are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (loss of near vision with age), and astigmatism. In these cases, the retina and the optical nerve are intact. With proper fitting and prescriptive powers, vision is restored to crisp and clear vision at or close to 20/20. There is usually a short adjustment period to seeing better. The brain still needs to adjust to a change that is taking place. It should be noted that there are also incurable eye diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Unlike vision problems, the majority of hearing loss in adults (90-95%) is caused by degenerative or progressive nerve loss. Once the nerve (microscopic hair cells) is damaged, there is no cure for hearing loss, but hearing aids are prescribed to help compensate for the loss of acuity. Hearing aids do amplify sounds, but they do not always make a particular sound that you want to hear as crisp and clear as you might want. Modern hearing aids are programmed specifically to your individual hearing loss and needs, and are verified at the time of your fitting and at follow-up appointments. Even with the best technology and best-programmed hearing aids, they still are not like glasses meaning they won’t give you “20/20 hearing” in every situation. The science of hearing aids and ongoing research continue to improve but they cannot replicate the intricacies of the auditory system.
Another way that we wish hearing aids were more like glasses is when it comes to the stigma associated with wearing them. Billions of people around the world wear glasses and no one thinks of them any differently but for some reason, hearing aids have not yet become as mainstream.
We hear with our ears, but we understand (process) with our brain.