Imagine that your arm was placed in a plaster cast and remained in that cast immobilized, for eight to ten years.
After the passage of so much time, you would undoubtedly experience significant muscle atrophy, and possibly suffer nerve damage. To regain strength and recover the use of your arm, you would require extensive hours of physical therapy. Slowly, over time, you would hopefully regain the function of your arm, but it would likely never become as effective as it originally was.
Now, take a moment to extend this scenario to your ability to hear. Did you know that the average person waits for a period of eight to ten years between their initial awareness of a hearing change until the first visit to seek evaluation or treatment? In the hypothetical case involving the plaster cast on an arm, no one would reasonably expect their arm to function normally when the cast was finally removed. The same holds true for our ability to hear and understand spoken language.
The ability to hear and understand takes place not just with the ears, but with the processing of sound that occurs in our brains. Yes, your ears collect sounds in quite specific and sophisticated ways, however those sounds must make their way to the auditory processing centers of the brain for meaningful interpretation and understanding.
When a person lives with an untreated hearing loss, in a manner similar to the arm in a cast, portions of the auditory center of the brain become passive, and are effectively “immobilized.” If the brain receives less than appropriate sound information for any amount of time, it is unrealistic to assume that even with the use of hearing aids, all hearing and understanding can be restored to levels prior to the change. This will just not be the case!
When a person tries to “make do” with an untreated hearing loss, the brain receives less auditory information than it needs. Not only does this condition affect the way a person hears and understands, but new research tells us that it also changes the way the brain functions. Results of Dr. Anu Sharma’s research, performed at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, demonstrate that the brain changes in response to even a mild to moderate hearing loss. Her research uses brain imaging to study how the brain reacts to speech. She has compared brain images of a person with normal hearing versus a person with hearing loss.
In cases where a person has normal hearing, the auditory parts of the brain are repeatedly stimulated in response to speech. When an individual’s hearing is impaired, not only are the auditory parts of the brain not stimulated, but effects are also seen in the vision centers as well as the portion of the brain responsible for decision making and problem solving. This means that the brain requires additional help to successfully understand speech, and therefore uses greater cognitive energy when a hearing loss is present. This extra effort results in creating greater fatigue and stress on both the individual’s brain and their body.
Let’s be honest here, most people just do not need more stress on their brain and body.
Why is this important? Because, THE AVERAGE PERSON WAITS EIGHT-TO-TEN YEARS TO GET THEIR HEARING CHECKED AFTER THEY INITIALLY NOTICE A PROBLEM! Would you wait eight to ten years if you couldn’t see, or started to lose feeling in your hands? ABSOLUTELY NOT ! As an audiologist, it is quite unsettling to think of the millions of people that choose to wait to address changes in their hearing. Why do so many people wait? Embarrassment? Cost? Appearance? Hassle?
At Audiological Consultants our audiologists know and appreciate these concerns. Not only do we offer invisible, hassle-free hearing solutions as well as solutions for all lifestyles and budgets, but we also have professionals who will be your partner and support system for navigating the process of understanding and improving your hearing. Come hear how you could be hearing better, … and living better!