How Does Hearing Work?
Hearing only starts with your ears. It is the auditory system, composed of the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear and the auditory neurological pathway, that allows the process of hearing to occur. That process begins when sound waves enter the outer ear and are channeled through the other complex parts of the ear and the nervous system into the brain. The physical characteristics of the original sound are preserved as various types of energy that the brain recognizes and identifies as a particular sound. So, in actuality, you hear with your brain!
However, when it comes to maintaining your auditory system, you lose it if you don’t use it. Just as the muscles in your body become sore when you exercise after a period of inactivity, your auditory system will have a hard time getting back into shape should you suddenly decide to wear hearing devices, especially if you have gone a long time without treating your hearing loss. Your brain will lose some of its ability to process information due to lack of stimulation and as a result, it will be more difficult to recognize sounds…even with hearing devices.
When Should You Treat Hearing Loss?
To minimize the impact of auditory deprivation, you should address the hearing loss as soon as possible once diagnosed, rather than waiting until the condition gets worse. Providing solutions and positive outcomes for patients with advanced/longstanding hearing loss can be done but with greater challenges as the condition of the neurological system is weak. Early intervention results in better outcomes.
We recommend you receive a baseline hearing test from a trained hearing specialist beginning at the age of 40. During this test we can determine the lowest volume level you can hear at various frequencies or pitches. We can then reference this during subsequent testing and monitor changes.
Once your hearing threshold is identified, we encourage you to have periodic hearing tests (every two or three years) to help prevent and/or identify hearing loss earlier than you otherwise might. If you are a hunter, musician or woodworker, or are frequently and consistently exposed to loud noise, an annual hearing test is recommended. It is only through preventative care that we can help you prevent further damage to your hearing system.