Helen Keller once said, “If you lose your sight, you lose touch with things. If you lose your hearing, you lose touch with people.” We see a few blurry street signs and we know it’s time to have our eyes checked. However, hearing loss usually happens so gradually we don’t realize its effects. Unfortunately, the consequences of untreated hearing loss are irreparable.

We collect sound with our ears and process the sound in our brain, but over time and without hearing assistance, we can lose the ability to understand the spoken word. This documented process is called “auditory deprivation.”

In her landmark book on Auditory Processing Disorder, When the Brain Can’t Hear, Teri James Bellis, PhD, explains, “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 the intricacy of a conversation – with many sounds, inflections and tempo changes – it makes communication extremely complicated. When a hearing loss is 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. 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.

Untreated hearing loss can have a tremendous cost in quality of life – not only for the patient, but also for their family and friends. While hearing loss causes listening fatigue, it can also be exhausting for the person who has to constantly repeat everything. Untreated hearing loss affects everyone in the relationship – spouses, children, grandkids and friends. In fact, the symptomatic similarities between untreated hearing loss and Alzheimer’s are amazing – isolation, depression, reduced cognitive ability and more.

According to world renowned Otolaryngologist Dr. Brian McKinnon of the famed Shea Ear Clinic, “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. McKinnon goes 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.” Hearing aids solve the problems people have with communication, and they help to preserve and protect the brain’s ability to recognize speech.

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.

The incredible advances in today’s technology offer dynamic sound and brilliant clarity of speech. It you’re struggling to understand the spoken words, schedule a free evaluation today with one of our licensed professionals at the Shea Hearing Aid Center by calling us at (901) 415-6667. Do it for yourself; do it for your loved ones. It can truly change your life.