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Offered by: John Wilson, B.S., BC-HIS, Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus Center

As a young father I nervously waited for my child to be born. I feared all the things that could be wrong with the baby. I remember shortly after the birth the doctor and nurses counting all the fingers and toes, going through some checklist and coming up with a score as to the health of the baby. We were told the baby would also have to have a hearing test. I was perplexed. I had hearing tests when I was a kid in school and had to listen carefully and raise my left or right hand depending on which ear heard a tone. I pictured my beautiful baby, only knowing how to eat, cry, and mess diapers raising tiny hands when hearing a “beep.” I was perplexed as to how they would know a newborn could hear. It seemed so unscientific.

When the time came for the test, the baby was taken into a small room. It was then that I learned the scientific nature of testing a baby’s hearing. The technician placed tiny speakers in the baby’s ears and multiple electrodes on the baby’s head. The electrodes measured the activity in the brain when tones were presented through each speaker. The lessons I learned that day contributed significantly to my knowledge as I later entered the world of hearing health care and have been instrumental in my success helping adults of all ages with hearing loss hear and communicate more effectively.

“You don’t hear with your ears. You hear with your brain.” This is a phrase I have repeated countless times over more than a decade when educating others on hearing loss. Understanding the relationship between hearing and overall brain health is helping more people live longer, happier, healthier lives. Thanks to collaboration between the worlds of audiology and neurology, significant amounts of research data has definitively shown the correlations between hearing loss and negative changes to the brain. Just this past May, a report was released showing that the brains of young adults with even mild hearing loss are changing and prematurely aging. Knowing the connection between brain health and hearing loss is important and treating hearing loss of any severity is a key part of long-term brain health and overall health.

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