Use Your Hearing Or Loss It
Use it or lose it also applies to your hearing and hearing loss.
You've heard this phrase before, usually associated with exercise programs, brain function or vacation time. However, the phrase can also be applied to one of your five important physical senses – your hearing.
The process of hearing depends on a set of events working together to bring sound (vibrations) from outside of your body to hair cells within your cochlea.
The hair cells then transmit the vibrations into electrical information which your brain interprets as sound. Your hearing can be negatively affected by a variety of factors including genetics, injury, excessive noise, disease process, some medications, as well as age-related hearing loss. Undetected hearing problems can cause irreversible hearing loss if not treated.
You have your vision tested every 1-2 years once you notice that you can't read a sign, a book, or see the television or computer. Similarly you should get your hearing tested on a regular basis. Talk to your primary care provider, or an ear, nose & throat specialist, if you notice that you are having difficulty hearing.
Hearing Loss At Any Age
Hearing loss can impact you at any age. We normally associate hearing loss with growing older. However, with the increased use of headphones and the culture of listening to music or movies loudly and with surround sound, we are seeing more and more people in their 40s, 30s, and even 20s who can benefit from testing and audio metric rehabilitation or hearing aids.
Various medical studies support the ‘use it or lose it' adage as it relates to your hearing.
Dr. James Jerger, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, stated "… speech recognition declines when the unaided ear is deprived of stimulation over a substantial period of time."1
Raymond Hurley also reported that for those individuals who were fitted with one hearing aid when diagnosed with sensory neural hearing loss (the most common type of hearing loss), their ‘un-aided ear' significantly lost the ability to recognize words over time (1-26% over 1-5 years, with testing done at the one year, 3 year and 5 year marks).2
In all cases, waiting to address hearing or speech recognition problems most likely will negatively affect hearing outcome.
Those little hair cells that process sound in your cochlea can become damaged. They do not regenerate or grow back like the hairs on the rest of your body.
If your particular hearing problem is degenerative in nature, the longer you wait to get your hearing tested and/or some sort of hearing amplification in place, the greater the chance you will have irreparable damage to your hearing, especially your ability to understand speech.
We all want to experience life to the fullest. Our senses play a large role in supporting our quality of life. Protect your hearing like you protect your eyes.
Get regular hearing tests and limit the amount of noise that enters your ears. For more information, talk to your physician or audiologist OR visit the National Institutes of Health online at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/.