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Can you restore hearing with hearing aids?

by | 11 Jan 2020 | Hearing Aids, Hearing Devices, News

One question we hear frequently is ‘will hearing aids restore my hearing back to normal?’  

In short, the answer is no. A hearing aid cannot restore your hearing to normal or cure your hearing loss. However, they can help you to hear better again. Furthermore, a device will go a long way to restoring normal hearing levels for many of those activities you may have been missing out on.

Treatment for hearing loss

Hearing aids are the treatment of choice for most types of auditory perception loss.  They will provide significant improvements in understanding speech. You will also feel more comfortable with more normal everyday sounds in your environment.  

As with any treatment or tool, you need to make sure you use the right device for your needs. You also need to understand that it takes time to adapt to using your hearing aids. So, our principal audiologist will help you choose the right hearing aid and adjust it to suit your lifestyle.

Most Australians with auditory perception loss can be treated with hearing aids. Although, devices cannot cure auditory perception loss, they can help you to hear better again. Medical treatments and surgical procedures are helpful for some adults with hearing loss.

How do hearing aids help?

Hearing is a complex process that starts with the ears and ends in the brain where information is received, stored and decoded into something we understand.

When you are fitted with devices to improve hearing, the brain suddenly registers long-lost sounds. Adjusting to amplification requires time, perseverance, and patience. You are essentially retraining your brain to interpret sounds. So it needs to re-learn to focus on some sounds and filter others out. Your brain did this naturally when your hearing was normal.

Hearing aids can improve your ability to listen to and communicate with the world around you. However, they cannot “cure” your hearing loss – just as glasses do not “cure” your nearsightedness or farsightedness. They are tools to help you manage the problem, and they can contribute significantly to an improved quality of life.

Adapting to hearing aids

Even with successfully fitted device, you may still have difficulties hearing well in some situations. You will find ways to adapt to your new devices, including watching people more closely as they talk and keeping background noise to a minimum when possible.

It takes time to adapt to hearing aids

The important thing to remember when getting your first pair of hearing aids, is that it takes time. Unlike glasses, which can produce instant results, it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Hearing aids ask your brain to process sounds it hasn’t heard in a long time – or ever! 

Be patient with your hearing aids

Be patient and give yourself time to adapt. Try out your hearing aids in different situations and note where you hear well and where it might be more challenging. If certain listening environments never seem to improve over time it could be an indication that your devices might need adjusting for those specific environments.

The good news is, most people who stick with their devices have higher hearing satisfaction than before they used the technology.

In today’s age of advanced technology, one might think it would be easy to duplicate the precise function of the ear and hearing. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. It is currently impossible for any hearing technology company to precisely recreate what “normal” hearing sounds like. 

How do hearing aids restore hearing?

In simple terms hearing aids work as amplifiers. Hearing instruments are very similar to public address (P.A.) systems. Both consist of a microphone that picks up the sound, an “equalizer” that manipulates that sound, and a “speaker” that sends the sound to the inner ear.

In most cases of hearing loss the delicate hair cells that transfer sounds in the form of electric signals to your brain no longer function properly.  A hearing aid picks up external sounds through a microphone and makes those sounds louder. This allows the remaining healthy hair cells to transmit the sounds to your brain as it would normally.

Modern technological advances have made hearing aids more sensitive and with a a much greater range of adjustable features. These innovations enable the hearing aid to amplify the sounds you want to hear and reduce the sounds you don’t.

Duplicating the function of the human ear

Although today’s hearing aids cannot precisely duplicate the function of the human ear, they can be of tremendous benefit to hearing impaired individuals.

Digitization of sound and dedicated computer software allow hearing healthcare professionals to more precisely address hearing loss.

Squealing hearing aids

Hearing instruments don’t easily squeal these days. So, thanks to the automatic nature of technology, there is reduced need for manual volume controls. Today’s devices adapt to their environment thousands of times per second to ensure the best possible hearing for the wearer. 

And though they may not be able to restore your hearing back to “normal,” today’s devices are closer than ever. They can help restore normality to your quality of life by helping you clearly hear and interact with the people and activities that bring you joy.

What will hearing aids do for me?

Hearing aids can do so much more than simply amplify sounds.

Hear speech better

Modern hearing aid technology also helps you to hear speech better thanks to advanced speech recognition algorithms. These also allow you to tune out irritating background noise so you can focus on the conversation.

Feature-rich modern devices automatically adjust to your environment. Whether you’re sitting in a busy restaurant or enjoying a quiet walk in the forest. That means no more hasty fumbling with awkward  controls in the event of sudden loud noises.

Hear on the telephone better

Today’s devices also enable you to connect directly to your Smartphone. This provides for better sound clarity and speech understanding over the phone. And with easy adjustment controls thanks to Smartphone apps you are in total control of your environment.

Mask tinnitus

Modern hearing aids can also help mask tinnitus for a better listening experience. Innovative technology also helps you locate sounds more accurately and provide a better hearing balance across both ears.

Why can’t hearing aids restore my hearing to normal?

Hearing aids can restore the volume level to normal. However, simply making sounds louder does not always provide the brain with enough of the right kind of information it needs.

The brain is used to receiving sound signals in specific ways that trigger particular neural responses; the sounds need to be intelligible to the brain. Part of the problem for device designers is that hearing loss not only reduces your ability to hear, it distorts the way you hear sounds as well.

Simply amplifying sounds that the brain perceives as distorted does not always solve your hearing problem completely. If the brain does not recognise the amplified sounds coming through your hearing aid you may have problems understanding what you’re hearing.

It takes time to learn to hear

In fact, a modern hearing aid is an extremely effective tool but like any tool it takes time to learn how to use it well.

Getting the most out of your devices involves a learning process. As part of that process your brain needs to forge some new neural patterns. It’s like learning a new language or like the brain adapting to a new prosthetic limb. So you do need to be patient.

Sometimes the brain has difficulty dealing with sounds it hasn’t heard in a long time. The brain will remember again but it won’t necessarily happen instantly. Fortunately, the results are well worth the effort and new hearing aids can transform your life.

In Summary

The reality is we do not completely understand all aspects of auditory perception loss yet and hearing aids are not perfect. However, hearing aids can significantly improve the daily listening experience and social interactions of most people.

To get the most out of your hearing aids you need to wear them daily. If you are having problems or something doesn’t seem quite right please contact Noosa Hearing; we’re here to help.

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