Offered by: John Wilson, B.S., BC-HIS, Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus Center
As the season changes from summer to fall, many are enjoying the harvest of fields and gardens because of work done back in the spring. The law of the harvest, “We reap what we sow” is ancient and applies to nearly every aspect of our lives, including our physical and mental health.
Over a decade ago, I first learned about the negative consequences of untreated hearing loss. At the time, research showed most people waited 7 to 10 years to have their hearing loss treated. Those who waited significantly increased the likelihood of losing their ability to understand words, even when they were loud enough be heard. Since that time, I have seen those types of results in hundreds of patients. However, sometimes I get to see what happens when people do treat their hearing loss immediately. Two examples come to mind.
Years ago, a 94 year-old man came in to replace his hearing aids because he was having increased trouble understanding his wife speak. After completing the tone test and seeing the severity of his loss, I prepared to explain the problem might not be the hearing aids, but that his brain was not processing the words correctly. Then, I performed the speech discrimination test. He scored 100%! His word recognition was perfect! How could that be that be given his age and the severity of his loss? So, I asked him how long he had been wearing hearing aids. He said about 25 years. I asked how long he waited to get them once he found out he had hearing loss. He said he got them as soon as he was told about his loss and had worn hearing aids every day since.
Then, just a few weeks ago, a nearly 80 year old patient who had worn hearing aids for over 45 years came in to inquire about new hearing aids because of diminished understanding. The patient was concerned about possible brain changes could be happening. After testing I found that after many years of wearing hearing aids, the patient to have excellent speech understanding, as long as the incoming sounds were loud enough.
These two experiences reinforced my conviction that the likelihood of better hearing and understanding later in life is largely achieved by treating hearing loss as soon as possible. The harvest of healthy hearing later in life is reaped after sowing healthy hearing habits earlier in life.
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