Excerpts by Robert L. Martin PHD
When I first heard the words, “… or your brain will rust, “I felt angry and thought some unscrupulous practitioner was misleading patients. Well, that was 25 years ago and I‘ve now seen many patients who do not want to wear their hearing aids. Some patients need strong encouragement: otherwise their hearing aids stay in the drawer and family, friends and the wearer all suffer. It is not uncommon for patients to expect to hear well even if they don’t wear their hearing aids regularly. If this is the case, what does the patient need to know?
“You don’t hear with your ears, you hear with your brain. “
It’s much like your sense of touch. You don’t feel with your fingers but, rather you make electricity which is carried to your brain through nerves. In other words, you feel with your brain. In a similar fashion your ears make electricity that is carried to your brain through your hearing nerves. You hear with your brain not your ears.
“A good hearing aid is like exercise. If you want to get your muscles in shape, you need to exercise them every day.”
Let me ask you a silly question: How well would you dance if you stayed in bed all day, every day, Monday through Friday-then went dancing on Friday night? You would look pretty funny, wouldn’t you? Legs have to be used regularly or you can’t walk. It’s the same with hearing. Conditioning the auditory cortex of the brain is much like conditioning leg muscles. It’s impossible to sit on a couch and drink beer all week and get healthy leg muscles. What you get is a big stomach and weak legs.
“When you wear your hearing aids, lots of good things happen. You get used to the feeling of wearing the hearing aids. You get used to all the funny sounds. You start hearing better.”
It takes time for the brain to learn to recognize words through the hearing aids. Learning to listen to amplified sound is like trying to understand people who speak with an unfamiliar accent, like the actors in British dramas on TV. At first, the words seem garbled. But slowly, they becomes clearer, easier to recognize.
Wearing hearing aids in noisy listening situations also takes time. It is not easy to listen to one person when lots of other people are talking at the same time. But with practice you get better.
Wearing hearing aids even helps short-term memory. If I tell you my name is Dr. ..ru…p., you’ll know you didn’t hear the name correctly so it won’t register in your brain. But if I say my name is Dr. Grump, you’ll think, ‘Wow, that’s a weird name!’ and you will probably remember it.
“I conclude, “The more you listen with hearing aids, the better your brain gets at recognizing words.”
“Practice Makes Perfect”
This advice is particularly important to those patients who are complaining about not being able to understand words and have not been wearing their hearing aids. The phrase “Practice makes perfect” embodies much wisdom. We rarely get good at any task without doing it over and over.
It is not obvious to all patients that they need to wear their hearing aids. So we need to encourage them, educate them. The phrase “You need to wear your hearing aids or your brain will rust” is a simplistic overstatement. Yet it contains more truth then fiction. When a person does not hear sounds, the mapping function of the cortex in the brain begins to change. The longer people avoid wearing hearing aids, the more difficult it is for them to learn to hear through them. In truth, wearing hearing aids improves word understanding in almost all situations, and not wearing them results in an unnecessary loss of speech information.
The act of hearing and interpreting words is much more difficult than most of us realize. Just think about it. Most children are born with normally functioning ears and brain. Yet it takes thousands of hours of practice before the child can hear and understand a sentence.
When people have poor hearing ability, they also tend to develop poor listening habits. Paying attention to difficult signals is frustrating for them, so they tend to shut themselves off from others and stop trying to hear. But, using hearing aids reconnects these people with family, friends, and the rest of the world and it makes all avenues of communication easier.
If you would like to learn more about how well you are hearing or wish to find out how well you are hearing with your current hearing aids, Entire Hearing Care offers a FREE hearing evaluation. Contact Entire Hearing Care on 1300 557 134 or 07 5575 8999