A hearing aid does more than help you hear. It also helps your brain remember the sounds you cannot hear without your hearing aid. Most often, hearing loss sneaks up on you. Suddenly one day, you notice that you no longer hear the humming of the refrigerator or the birds’ singing.
On average, it takes 10 years for people with hearing loss to finally do something about it. Many people are simply waiting for the hearing problem to go away. This rarely happens. Untreated hearing loss affects your quality of life, but it also affects the brain’s ability to remember common everyday sounds because the hearing channels are no longer effectively used.
When the hearing nerves lose their function and no longer channel sound signals to the brain, the brain ‘forgets’ the sounds over time and becomes unable to understand them.
The brain center for hearing stores sounds and noises for up to three years following the onset of a hearing loss. But after about seven years the memory becomes weaker and weaker. Therefore, it is important to have your hearing tested and hearing aids fitted when you find that you are losing some of your hearing. Once you have a hearing aid the hearing processing resumes supplying signals to the brain.
If the fitting of a hearing aid is seriously delayed, however, not even a hearing aid will be able to transform the incoming sound signals into understandable information. This means that the brain no longer recognizes ordinary everyday sounds and noises, such as the hum of the refrigerator or the computer. The brain must learn to hear all over again. If you have any doubts about your hearing, you should see your doctor and have a hearing test.
Sources: Forum Besser Hören, 2002