Your Hearing: Use It or Lose It

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Your Hearing: Use It or Lose It, The Women's JournalBy Catherine M. Marino, Au.D.

Did you know that the longer you put off getting hearing help, the longer it may take you to reacclimatize to the sounds that you are currently missing? The lack of stimulation to the auditory system is called auditory deprivation. Putting off getting hearing help not only delays your reconnection to the world through your hearing and ability to communicate, but it also impacts how well you can make use of the sounds you hear, once they are restored.

The good news is that today’s technology not only can help restore those missing sounds but also employ an adaptive process for reintroducing them. This allows the auditory system time to organize these new sounds for maximum benefit and minimum annoyance.

What is Auditory Deprivation?

Auditory deprivation is prolonged reduction of sensory input to our ears, auditory nerve and hearing parts of our brain. Hearing loss reduces the transmission of sound through temporary blockage or permanent damage to the outer, middle or inner ear and thus reduces the electrical signals sent along the hearing pathways to the brain.

Use It or Lose It!

As a result of prolonged auditory deprivation, the auditory nerve and hearing pathways of the brain begin to lose their ability to faithfully carry auditory signals to the hearing parts of the brain. The auditory cortex may start to lose its capacity to interpret and process the incoming signals because of neglect, or may even use this important part of the brain for other functions. So the sooner a hearing treatment plan is initiated using properly programmed hearing aids, the faster and better you will be able to make use of all the many re-heard sounds. The plasticity of the brain is a good thing, but it can go both ways. (i.e., use it or lose it.)

Learn to Listen in Quiet First

Many new hearing aid users think that they should only need to wear their hearing aids when they go out because it is in social situations that they have the most difficulty. The issue here is that you need to walk before you can run. The auditory system needs time to first hear individual sounds in order to recognize, analyze for significance, then act upon or store for future reference. This is best done in quiet undemanding situations. Think of it as training for the big time. Once you feel comfortable with the volume settings and hearing differently in quiet, you are ready for venturing out into more complex listening situations. 

Hearing in Background Noise

When you are ready for more demanding listening situations, learn to focus on whom or what you want to hear. The hearing aids are designed to help you do just that. You can only listen to one conversation at a time anyway so put your attention there. The hearing aids are constantly analyzing the sound environment and in most cases are programmed to automatically switch on the directional microphones when it is noisy or there are multiple conversations going at once. Your audiologist will instruct you if you need to switch into this program manually.

Bottom Line

The sooner you receive hearing help, the better the outcome!

The Riddle Difference!

Following a comprehensive Audiological Evaluation, Listening Needs Assessment, and live Hearing Aid Demonstration, the audiologists at Riddle Hospital will offer a hearing treatment plan that is specifically designed for your individual needs and budget.

For more information or to schedule an evaluation or treatment, contact your physician for a referral to the audiologists at Riddle Hospital.


Barbara J. Madden, Au.D., Doctor of Audiology/Director

Catherine M. Marino, Au.D., Doctor of Audiology

Denise E. Stewart, M.S., Clinical Audiologist

Lisa C. Mackenzie, M.S., Clinical Audiologist

For an appointment with a Riddle Hospital audiologist, call 484.227.3200 (new number) or visit

Your Hearing: Use It or Lose It, The Women's Journal