Some people immediately shy away from the idea of getting hearing aids, either because they don’t want others to know they have hearing loss or because they think the devices themselves are unsightly.
This can be very dangerous, however, as failure to use a hearing aid can lead to progressively worsening problems with understanding sounds. Knowing how hearing aids work in conjunction with your ears can help you or a loved one make the critical decision to get fitted and improve the quality of your lives.
Several parts of the ears and brain are responsible for hearing, and problems in any of these areas can contribute to hearing loss. Critical components of processing sounds are the nerves in the ears that pick up sound and send it to the brain, and the nerve center in the brain that then processes sounds and sends them back as translated voices and other noises. For these nerves to work properly, people must use them. In this sense they are similar to the muscles in the body in that, if you don’t give them exercise they begin to weaken. It is this weakening of the nerves that can lead to further problems with listening and translating sound accurately, and if these nerves atrophy to the point of not working at all, they do not make a comeback.
Hearing aids do not actually heal problems of the ear, nor can they technically prevent age-related and other issues that lead to hearing loss. However, because they amplify sounds so that the ears can understand them, hearing aids keep critical nerves in the ears and brain active. This prevents the nerves from atrophying and keeps them responsive. This is why it is so important for people with hearing loss to address the problem immediately. The longer they put it off, the more likely that the nerves needed for hearing will deteriorate or die, making it more difficult for hearing aids to help recover their ability to hear sounds. In short, hearing aids help the ears and brain exercise enough to achieve greater nerve health, and failure to expose oneself to sounds with the help of hearing aids can significantly affect your hearing abilities down the road.
The flip side of wondering if hearing aids can prevent future hearing loss is wondering if they can actually damage your hearing. The truth is that hearing aids that are properly fitted and that were developed based on the specific findings of your hearing test do not further damage your hearing. It may take some time to adjust to having hearing aids in or on your ears and to get used to the increased amplification of sounds. After the initial adjustment period, people with hearing aids benefit from the increased quality of their work and personal lives that is created by better listening and communicating through improved sound.
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