Posted on: January 29, 2016
For our last post on maintaining your hearing health in 2016 we will discuss sensory deprivation. This is the idea that hearing deteriorates faster in those with untreated hearing loss versus those who have sought out treatment for their hearing loss. It is thought that this happens because reduced hearing leads to less stimulation of the auditory nerve and areas of the brain responsible for auditory processing. Think of it like two paths in the woods, one well used and one not. The one that is not used will grow over and become harder and harder to traverse. Similarly the underused nerve deteriorates further and further.
A study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America set out to test this idea. They recruited people who had hearing loss in both ears, but only used a hearing aid in one. They found the hearing level to be similar in both ears, but people had a harder time understanding speech in the unaided ear. That is the ability to discriminate speech deteriorated faster in the ear that was not treated.
Treating hearing loss early is the best way to slow the rate at which speech discrimination and processing decline. To do this hearing loss needs to be caught early. This is why it is important to have your hearing tested regularly. Just like your eyes and teeth, having your hearing checked should be part of your regular health routine.
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