August 2, 2021
We have always strongly encouraged our patients to wear their devices as much as possible each day. There is strong science behind that recommendation based on multiple studies.
- The Slow Progression of Hearing Loss Results in Brain Rewiring: When we lose our hearing, it typically occurs very slowly over a period of years. The insidious nature of the change means that month after month various sounds in our environment are becoming softer and softer until, in many cases, they no longer exist. These sounds may include simple things like birds, footsteps, a car blinker, a purring kitten, etc. Gradually these missing sounds include ranges of speech. As the hearing nerve begins to lose the ability to send certain sound signals to the brain, the brain begins to “forget” that these signals exist. Once the brain forgets certain sounds exist it begins to rewire to focus on those sounds that remain and do the best it can with what’s left. The longer the brain experiences this form of sound desensitization, the more “cemented” the brains rewiring process becomes. On average, good hearing aid candidates wait 5-10 years before considering doing something about their hearing loss. Delaying hearing aid use contributes greatly to a patient’s ability to adapt to and benefit from hearing aids, particularly during the initial days and weeks of hearing aid use.
- Consistent Hearing Aids Use Can Rewire/Reactivate Dormant Pathways in the Brain: The good news is, just as the brain will rewire to adapt to a hearing loss, it will also rewire to the signals sent by a hearing aid. However, this process takes some persistence, patience and time. As you can imagine, the brain is initially shocked and confused by this new sound information and it doesn’t remember how to handle it all. The neural connections become lazy from lack of use. Common sounds such as paper, dishes clanging, road noise, and one’s own voice may seem almost overwhelming to the brain at first. For this reason, when we initially fit a patient who has experienced long term desensitization, we start with amplification levels below optimal. This helps the brain rewire more gradually and then we increase the gain slowly over several appointments allowing time to adapt in between.
Patients may receive some benefit from part time hearing aid use; however, they will never reach their full potential. Our most successful patients wear their hearing aids 12-16 hours per day. This consistent hearing aid use will help rewire the brain to once again categorize signals as important and in need of focus or unimportant to be ignored. To reach your full potential, wear your hearing aids as much as possible!