I once had a client say to me “anyone can suffer a hearing loss however, smart people do something about it”. She is definitely right! There are many benefits to having hearing loss treated.
When hearing loss is treated, various sounds and letters become more audible to hear and understand. The latest hearing aids have speech focus technology that helps with communication. This works by enabling better processing of unique speech sounds that the client no longer hears. Each letter and verbal sound corresponds to a unique frequency range, and when one loses the ability to hear that range, two things happen.
Firstly, all the sounds, letters, and words that involve those frequencies are more difficult to hear and exceptionally harder to understand or identify. Secondly, when hearing loss is left untreated, the brain adjusts to not hearing the sounds associated with those frequencies. Words involving those sounds then begin to lose their crispness, impacting the way speech is interpreted and used. The ears and brain communicate together to help process sounds clearly and replicate them for speech. When you lose certain frequencies, that communicative pathway is interrupted and becomes impaired.
To help you visualize this, if I handed you a boldly typewritten letter, you would likely find it very easy to read. Whereas, if I handed you that same letter but had blacked out all the TH, S, F, CH, P, K, and H’s, you would have more trouble reading it. This is how a person with hearing loss hears speech. Yes, using sentence structure, lip reading, and knowing the topic of conversation helps the hearing impaired person fill in the blanks, but it takes a lot of time, focus, and energy.
With normal hearing in a crowded room, it is reported that the average person hears about 64% of the conversation. This means that we lean on sentence structure, lip reading, and knowing the topic of conversation to fill in the missing words. When you have hearing loss and your word discrimination is down, you lean on these same crutches to assist with speech understanding, even in a quiet situation. Naturally, many life situations are not quiet, making it even more difficult to understand speech. This can lead to a person with a hearing impairment withdrawing from the group. However, being fit with hearing aids helps to enhance each letter and the verbal sound corresponding to the unique frequency range where the client has hearing loss. This assists the brain in interpreting speech.
So let’s give a great big thank you to all the hearing aid manufacturers who continue to work diligently in coming up with solutions that assist our loved ones with hearing impairments! Yes, anyone can have hearing loss and it is smart people that do something about it.
Cathy Robinson, BC-HIS
Board Certified in Hearing Instrument Sciences
Registered Hearing Aid Practitioner