Principal Clinical Scientist
For those experiencing hearing loss, many often wonder if their hearing gets worse if they don’t wear a hearing aid. If you have hearing loss and have been advised to wear a hearing aid, the rate at which your hearing deteriorates will not be affected whether you wear the hearing aid or not.
The hearing thresholds are measured in the hearing test and these are the quietest sounds you can hear. It is usual that these change over time so that your hearing loss increases but this tends to be very gradual. The rate of change is usually so gradual that it can be hard to notice that hearing sounds or conversation has become more difficult. It is often only when people try hearing aids that they become aware of the big difference and are then alerted to how much they have been missing. This can give the illusion that when they take the hearing aids out, they are in fact struggling even more. This will not be the case, it is simply that the difficulties they had got used to before trying a hearing aid become a stark contrast to how they are now hearing with the aid in.
What can become affected if a hearing aid that is advised is not worn is the ability to discriminate speech well and process and filter sounds. The brain has a complex job to sort and process all sounds coming in and it manages this in part by sounds being familiar. Familiar sounds that are heard but are not particularly important are filtered out by the brain over time so that the listener can concentrate better on what they want to hear such as conversation.
Conversation is very complex sound to be processed and requires the whole range of frequencies (from low tomes to high notes) to be heard well. If the brain does not receive the full range of sound signals it is not able to do this so well and becomes out of practice. If this goes on for an extended period then the brain can lose its ability not only to process the complex sounds but also the ability to filter out unwanted sounds so effectively. Wearing hearing aids as required gives the brain its usual range of sound signals at an appropriate volume so although it may take a few months to get used to, as long as the user has not gone for a very long time with a hearing loss before seeking help, it should begin to process and sort the sounds effectively again.
Long term hearing loss that goes unaided can result in what is known as auditory deprivation and can mean that the person is never able to achieve particularly good results with hearing aids. It is therefore better to seek help early if you notice difficulty in hearing. You can check your hearing using our free online hearing test.
To learn more on getting used to a new hearing aid, read our recent blog: How long does it take to get used to a hearing aid?