On average, people with hearing loss wait seven long years before seeking treatment. Not only can this make your life needlessly more complicated, but it can put your brain at risk. Untreated hearing loss can cause auditory deprivation, which can harm the part of your brain responsible for processing sound.
What Is Auditory Deprivation?
Dr. Jenille Pulido, an audiologist in Florida and fellow with the American Academy of Audiology explains it best: “Auditory deprivation is when the brain has difficulty understanding and processing information due to the lack of stimulation.”
The most common cause of auditory deprivation is the lack of appropriate hearing loss treatment. According to Pulido, “This mostly comes about when someone has a diagnosed hearing loss and they don’t treat that hearing loss.” She continues, “over the time of not getting that auditory stimulation that connection between the ears and the brain gets weak.”
Those who have hearing loss in both ears but only wear a hearing aid in one may also develop auditory deprivation.
The “Use It or Lose It” Phenomenon
Hearing takes place in both your ears and your brain. Soundwaves travel through the ear, are converted into electrical impulses and then pass via the auditory nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as sound. When you are living with untreated hearing loss, fewer sounds are reaching the brain. Because of this lack of stimulation, the brain will reallocate the power it was using to process sound to other tasks, such as vision.
“The longer you wait to seek treatment, the [more the] brain has trouble understanding and processing information,” explains Pulido.
This is seen even after you seek treatment. Because of changes in the brain, processing sounds even with hearing aids are often more challenging. While you may be able to hear the sounds, the brain may struggle to understand which words are actually being used.
Treatment for Auditory Deprivation
Researchers are unsure if this type of damage to the brain is reversible. Since the brain is flexible, it is able to make new connections to help you understand more information once you seek treatment.
The best way to prevent auditory deprivation is to schedule an auditory evaluation at the first sign of hearing loss and seek treatment when needed.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, contact Hearing Systems today.