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Now I know some of you read the title and thought “uh oh”! No worries, hearing or understanding, does not have anything to do with how smart you are.
What we call ears, (those things on the side of your head) are really just collection dishes for sound. The outer ear funnels sound down the ear canal to the ear drum (acoustic energy). The sound strikes the ear drum which boosts the sound (mechanical energy) through the tiny bones in the middle ear. The last bone rocks back and forth in an opening to the hearing nerve which is filled with fluid. That fluid pulses through the nerve (hydraulic energy) and stimulates the little hair cells (electric energy) which then send an electrical impulse to the brain. The brain is responsible for “decoding” what the ears send it. I know, so what?
This is the important part. The longer a person waits to get help for their hearing loss the more the brain forgets how to interpret speech. This is called auditory deprivation. It means to deprive the brain of the necessary audio information. This is why the sooner someone gets help the better results they get and the easier the transition will be. Evidence shows us that those who get and wear their hearing aids consistently get used to them faster and often times help to protect the part of the brain responsible for understanding speech.
Today’s hearing technology is amazing. Just about every hearing aid fit today is digital, has some level of noise cancellation, can have multiple memory settings, may have blue tooth capabilities, and other useful enhancements. But, if a person waits too long to address their hearing loss much of that technology will give them minimal benefit.
One of the important tests we perform on every hearing patient is a word discrimination test. During this test we play individual words at a comfortable level to see if the patient can understand and repeat each word. We perform this test in a completely quiet environment so that we can effectively measure the brains ability to interpret the word without interference. The results will show us how well the brain is understanding speech. This will help us counsel each individual patient on how well they might understand speech with their new hearing aids.
Several studies have been released that show other challenges associated with hearing loss including dementia and depression. I you or a loved one isn’t hearing quite as well as you used to, come get a hearing test to find out where you stand.