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HEARING LOSS: The Hidden Danger When the Brain Can’t Hear

The consequences of an untreated hearing loss are real. Since we collect sound with our ears and process the sound in our brain, over time and without hearing assistance, we can lose the ability to understand the spoken word. This documented process is called “auditory deprivation.”

According to Teri James Bellis, PhD, in her landmark book on Auditory Processing Disorder,
When the Brain Can’t Hear

“As sound travels through an imperfect auditory pathway, words spoken to the afflicted listener may become jumbled, distorting original meaning and rendering the words unintelligible.”

When you think about a conversation with all the sounds, the inflections and tempo changes, it makes communication extremely complicated. When a hearing loss has been present and untreated, the ability to follow the conversation can become extremely difficult. Without receiving the appropriate stimuli, the brain stops processing sounds like background noise and can no longer filter speech clearly. You may answer a question incorrectly, withdraw, smile and pretend you understood the conversation. This can be particularly troublesome when you are visiting the doctor, and important information is being relayed. In some cases, people have been “misdiagnosed” with Alzheimer’s disease because they were unable to follow the conversation.

According to world renowned Otologist, Dr. John Shea Jr., of the famed Shea Clinic Ear Nose & Throat, “If a person is hard of hearing and they don’t get amplification, they are not hearing and they lose the ability to understand.” Once familiar sounds, like the hum of a refrigerator, slowly fade and become unrecognizable noise competing with spoken words.

Dr. Shea went on to say, “When presented with amplification, or hearing aids, speech understanding becomes clearer. However, it is a continual process of improvement. Stimulating the brain with sound may help to overcome the auditory deprivation process, and getting help early is critical to a long term success.”

Now, the goal is to do everything we can to maintain the speech recognition you have. You need to wear the best hearing aids you can afford, full time in both ears to hear correctly. Hearing aids solve the problems people have with communication, and they help to preserve and protect the brain’s ability to recognize speech.

Hearing loss ranks number three behind hypertension and arthritis. Often called the invisible disability, hearing loss happens slowly over time and may go unnoticed for years. According to an article in Post Graduate Medicine, by Dr.’s Shohet and Bent, “Loss of hearing is a national health problem with significant physical and psychological repercussions. Although there is no cure for certain forms of hearing loss, many patients can be helped, especially when the problem is recognized early.” Wearing amplification (hearing aids) has been shown to help preserve the remaining hearing and speech clarity.

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