Have you noticed the first signs of hearing loss? You might be having trouble hearing conversations or you may be asking your friends to repeat themselves. But are you planning to book a hearing test right away? Unfortunately, many people notice the early signs of hearing loss but choose to ignore it for a while.
Mild hearing loss might not seem like a big deal, but the longer you wait, the more hearing loss will impact your brain. It’s never a good idea to put off getting hearing aids.
What Does Hearing Loss Really Sound Like?
You might think that having hearing loss means you can’t hear anything. The truth is that profound hearing loss is not that common. Instead, most people have mild or moderate hearing loss.
Hearing loss starts slow and changes gradually. Sounds don’t suddenly disappear. Instead, they start to sound a bit muffled or get a bit softer. Sounds lose their crisp edge, so it’s harder to identify sounds or determine where a sound is coming from. It’s also much harder to follow conversations since some of the speech sounds become muffled and hard to understand.
Hearing Loss and Your Brain
Hearing doesn’t just happen in your ears. The cells in the ear send electrical signals to the brain, and that’s important. But it’s in the brain that hearing really happens. When the auditory regions of your brain interpret the signals from the ears, you experience it as sound.
Unfortunately, when you have hearing loss you will start to experience auditory deprivation. The auditory regions of the brain aren’t getting a full picture of the sounds in your environment. The cells that interpret these sounds can start to shrink or atrophy. You may experience more rapid cognitive decline. You’ll also have an increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Hearing Aids Help Your Brain
That’s why treating hearing loss as soon as possible is truly important. When you wear hearing aids, you make it easier for your ears to analyze the sounds around you, hear all the soft sounds, and send more complete signals to the brain. This prevents auditory deprivation before it starts. It makes sounds around you sound crisper and clearer. And you’ll reduce cognitive decline and prevent cell death in the brain.
Book a Hearing Test
Hearing loss is gradual, so you might not notice it right away. Booking regular hearing tests helps you stay on top of your hearing health. Adults should get a hearing test every few years. You may want to get a hearing test more often if you have a noisy job or you’re often exposed to loud noises.
Adults over 50 should get a hearing test every two to three years. As you age, you may experience changes in your energy levels, or feel a bit more stiffness in your knees. Just like the rest of your body, your ears are affected by age as well. So getting regular hearing tests will help you monitor your hearing health for any signs of hearing loss. Adults over 60 should have a hearing test every one to two years.
Is it OK to Put Off Getting Hearing Aids?
If you’ve just had a hearing test, and the results show that you have hearing loss, you should get hearing aids! It’s never a good idea to put off getting hearing aids.
While you’re on the fence about treating hearing loss, your hearing loss will continue to get worse. You’ll have a harder time following conversations or enjoying social events. Over time, hearing loss increases your risk of feeling lonely, experiencing social isolation, or even struggling with depression.
Putting off getting hearing aids is also bad for your brain. The longer you live with untreated hearing loss, the greater your risk of permanent changes in the brain. This is really a case of use it or lose it. After several months or years of living with untreated hearing loss, the auditory regions of the brain start to feel the effects of auditory deprivation. These regions may start to atrophy or die, leading to brain shrinkage and more rapid cognitive decline.
Treating Hearing Loss
The solution is simple: treat hearing loss! When you notice changes in your hearing, book a hearing test and find out more about your hearing health. Then treat your hearing loss early to prevent a more serious issue.