WHICH STYLE BEST SUITS YOU AND YOUR HEARING LOSS?

As we have discussed in previous articles, there are many factors that go into investing in hearing aids.  Our priority, first and foremost, is basing technology and components inside the units on your lifestyle to ensure they are doing their job for the life you want to live.  It should not be based on what the hearing aid looks like.  With that being said, there are many different styles of hearing aids.  The range of style options allows hearing care professionals to work with the wants and needs of each patient; however,....

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HEARING VERSUS UNDERSTANDING

Too often, the process in which we hear is overlooked.  As a hearing care professional, it is crucial for patients to recognize how our ears and brain work in order to understand the process in which we hear vs. how we understand.  I have worked with many patients and feel that the most successful have a clear understanding of these differences which provides realistic expectations during the hearing aid process.

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MEDICAL CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS

Did you know your health could be negatively affecting your hearing? It’s true!  Hearing loss is associated with a number of different health problems ranging from hypertension to heart health. Today’s article is not to scare you, rather to inform you, and a lot of information will be hard. Working with your primary care physician or another certified healthcare professional can go a long way, especially when we are talking about medical causes for hearing loss.

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HEARING VERSUS UNDERSTANDING

Too often, the process in which we hear is overlooked.  As a hearing care professional, it is crucial for patients to recognize how our ears and brain work in order to understand the process in which we hear vs. how we understand.  I have worked with many patients and feel that the most successful have a clear understanding of these differences which provides realistic expectations during the hearing aid process.


How do we hear?

As sound leaves the source, it travels through the air hitting our outer ear where it is collected and funneled down into the external auditory canal. The sound waves then hit the tympanic membrane (ear drum) causing it to begin vibrating. That vibration causes the malleus, incus and stapes to begin pumping in response. These three bones are the smallest bones in our body and make up the ossicular chain. Pumping displaces the fluid within the organ of hearing called the cochlea. The cochlea is lined with thousands of hair cells lined from low frequency to high frequency and everything in between. This is where we get the volume from the sounds we hear. Once the sound enters the cochlea, it is recognized and sent through the auditory nerve to the brain.


How do we understand?

Once the sound enters the brain, it is up to the brain to assign meaning and create understanding.  Our brain is fully responsible

for how quickly sound is understood during conversation. The pathway is very in-depth but our brain knows just what to do.


Why does this difference matter?

While hearing and understanding have a strong relationship, they take place in very separate areas of the head. Hearing aids can help provide volume to individuals who have damage to their cochlea. This can increase the ability to understand because more information is being sent to the brain. With that being said, the brain must be able to keep up with the signals it is receiving in order to process that information and understand.


When hearing loss is present, the processing speed of the brain can be negatively affected. It can begin to slow down over time which is often when patients begin to recognize there is an issue. While I mentioned that volume can help provide more information to the brain in hopes that more information is understood, hearing aids cannot fix understanding. This process is very similar to muscle atrophy – “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.  In order to prevent this from occurring, or at least slow down further progression, hearing aids are the answer.

By providing your ears and brain with as much information as possible keeps that pathway as strong as we can make it.


Realistic Expectations

It is important to be very realistic in the outcome of what the hearing aids are capable of. With more information regarding hearing and understanding, my hope is that patients are more aware of what is possible with the advanced technology. Expectations can make or break a hearing aid experience!


Should you have further questions regarding this process or the difference between hearing and understanding, please contact a hearing healthcare professional.  

DR. BREWER

Dr. Brewer completed her Doctor of Audiology degree at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine and her undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Miami University in Oxford, OH. She is licensed by the state of Kentucky as an audiologist and hearing instrument specialist. She is also a member of the American Academy of Audiology, Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Kentucky Academy of Audiology and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  

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