Did you know that if you need prescription glasses but don’t wear them, you’re at risk of making your vision worse? This is because you have to strain harder to see, which can cause damage to your eyes over time.
In a sense, the same is true with your hearing; however, it’s not as simple as a case of “ear strain.” It is because it is taxing on your brain.
What Is Auditory Deprivation?
Auditory deprivation is a phenomenon that occurs when you have a hearing impairment and do not seek treatment.
When you don’t hear sounds of certain frequencies due to untreated hearing loss, the auditory center of the brain is no longer being stimulated, so it adapts. In other words, you can “forget” how to hear certain sounds and certain words.
When hearing is normal, auditory information is encoded using many different neural networks. If you have hearing loss, it alters this auditory information, causing the neural networks to atrophy and leading to a vicious cycle:
- As your auditory system weakens, you strain harder to make sense of sounds.
- Straining is taxing on your brain, which forces your neural networks to divert resources that aren’t meant for auditory processing to pick up the slack.
- This causes focusing to become more difficult, and often results in feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
- Lack of stimuli, like the Orpheum Theatre and dinner parties with friends are well-known risk factors for cognitive decline such as dementia.
Hearing Aids Can Help
According to a small study, wearing hearing aids “may reverse compensatory changes in cortical resource allocation.” In other words, negative changes in your brain may improve with consistent hearing aid use. Brain shrinkage may slow or stop, and your brain may begin to pick up on sound signals once more.
In order to get the most benefit from your devices and prevent the negative effects of auditory deprivation, you must wear your hearing aids regularly.
For more information about auditory deprivation or to schedule an appointment with an expert audiologist, call Central Plains ENT today.