Every new year is a new chapter in our lives—an opportunity to meet goals and self-improve. One of the ways you can improve this year is by using your hearing aids more regularly. If your hearing aid use is inconsistent, consider the following reasons why you should resolve to wear your hearing aids every day.
To Increase Cognitive Function
When individuals are fit with hearing aids for the first time, they often report that sounds are very loud. Their brains have become so accustomed to their mild hearing loss that normal hearing comes across as sharp and piercing. To adjust to this change, their brains must reorganize the way they process sound (Ferguson et al., 2017).
This reorganization can make the first few days, weeks, and even months of hearing aid use challenging as the brain forms new neural connections and relearns to process the sounds it was previously missing. To avoid this difficult relearning process, patients are encouraged to wear their hearing aids regularly. Regular hearing aid use strengthens the new neural connections, leading to better speech understanding and increased cognitive function (Glick & Sharma 2020).
To Improve Understanding in Background Noise
Consistent hearing aid use can also improve speech understanding in noisy environments, one of the most reported difficulties among individuals with hearing loss (Dawes & Munro 2017). Think of it this way – if Olympic athletes never practiced their sports, they would not perform very well. To be successful, they need to practice every day. The same is true for hearing aids. When individuals wear their hearing aids in quiet situations, their brains will more easily adjust to challenging, noisy situations.
Tips For Loved Ones
Do your family members refuse to wear their hearing aids? Last year, in particular, I heard many of my patients saying, “I’m not socializing with anyone when I’m home alone, so why should I wear them?” Patients who pose this question do not understand the important role hearing aids play in maintaining the brain’s ability to process the sounds around them. Everything we do has sound, and our brain craves that information. Even if your loved ones don’t enjoy wearing their hearing aids, they need to! Here are some tips for speaking to them about it.
Tip #1: Explain how sound deprivation affects the brain. Tell them that their brains must reacclimate to hearing every time they wear their hearing aids after not wearing them for a while. The more inconsistent they are, the more their brain will struggle to adjust to the new sensory information.
Tip #2: Compare the use of glasses to hearing aid use. A person who is prescribed corrective lenses wears them every day, even if they don’t plan to socialize or “see” anyone that day. The same should be true of those who need hearing correction.
Tip #3: Explain that putting aside their hearing aids to take “a break” from them is like taking a break from their job only to find a pile of work waiting for them when they return. Their brain will have to work extra hard to adjust to hearing again once their “break” is over.
Consistent hearing aid use is required for optimal success with hearing aids. As we enter the new year, make a commitment to yourself to wear your hearing aids regularly and see how doing so can improve your life.
Dawes, P. & Munro, K. J. (2017). Auditory Distraction and Acclimatization to Hearing Aids. Ear and Hearing, 38(2). DOI: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000366
Ferguson, M. A., Kitterick, P. T., Chong, L. Y., Edmondson-Jones, M., Barker, F., & Hoare, D. J. (2017), Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, 9. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012023.pub2.
Glick, H. & Sharma, A. (2020). Cortical Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Function in Early-Stave, Mild-Moderate Hearing Loss: Evidence of Neurocognitive Benefit from Hearing Aid Use. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14