Why Understanding How Hearing Works Can Help You Preserve It
Prevention and Treatment Your family may be frustrated that you aren’t hearing as well as you used to. You are feeling more and more isolated and withdrawn because it takes too much energy to engage in activities you enjoy. Eventually, you go to speak with an audiologist to talk about your hearing.
Many people have the idea that hearing aids will fix hearing loss. Let’s put that idea into context. How does our hearing work? Structures in the ear translate sounds into nerve signals. These signals travel along nerve pathways to centres in the brain where we recognize the sounds and understand what the sounds are and how they relate to our lives. An audiologist will interview you to learn how your hearing ability fits into your own lifestyle and expectations. Part of the interview will involve tests to determine the reason for the hearing loss. Parts of your hearing system may be damaged through disease, excessive exposure to loud noise, medications, degeneration, or other factors.
“If you delay [taking responsibility for your hearing health] you risk missing out on good quality of life and relationships.”
While there may be discussions about adjusting and adapting expectations it is important to understand hearing aids are not glasses. Visual impairments can often be corrected for by simply refocusing the incoming stimuli. Hearing aids make sounds louder, but those sounds still need to pass through a damaged system.
While your audiologist knows the limitations associated with a hearing aid and likely tried to set up realistic expectations, you leave the clinic and spend the next 364 days around people who now think you went and got your hearing fixed. The family dinner can actually be worse for a while, until you are able to work with your family to also understand the benefits and limitation of hearing aids. Your audiologist will be able to help you to find ways to adjust and to guide your family and others towards understanding your changing hearing perception.
It is important to take control of your own hearing health just like you take responsibility for the rest of your health and personal goals. If you delay, you risk missing out on good quality of life and relationships. As with your other health professionals, it is important to find an audiologist you can trust, who speaks to you first about your hearing loss and what it means to your life. You can work together to meet your goals and manage realistic expectations for yourself and your family.