There is a common misconception that if you can buy a pair of readers from the drugstore for your vision, why can’t it be that simple for your hearing?
By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D.
Hearing and vision are both very important senses; however, losing your hearing is very different from losing your vision. The main difference between these two types of sensory loss is that vision can often be repaired or completely restored; sensorineural hearing loss can’t be repaired or restored.
Vision loss can often be corrected to a normal level with eyeglasses while hearing devices cannot restore hearing to normal. You can’t expect to have “20/20” hearing from wearing hearing aids like you can with your vision from wearing eyeglasses.
According to the CDC, nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are the most frequent eye problems in the United States, affecting as many as 11 million Americans aged 12 years and older. The good news in these cases is that eyesight can be corrected back to normal vision with the correct prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses or corrective eye surgery. There are two types of hearing loss sensory-neural and conductive. In some cases, a conductive hearing loss can be restored. Conductive hearing loss is a condition that is typically associated with an obstruction in the ear — such as excess earwax, an ear infection or damage to the bones of the middle ear. Restoring hearing is not the same for those with sensorineural hearing loss, which accounts for as much as 90 percent of all hearing loss. Those who experience this type of hearing loss have damage to the inner ear or the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain, or even the brain itself.
Hearing device technology has improved substantially in the last 10 years; however, hearing aids can’t repair the damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. These hair cells do not regenerate and can’t be repaired, so when they die or are damaged, the brain has a more difficult time interpreting the signals they send. Hearing devices are great at amplifying the sound coming into your auditory system; however, it is much more difficult for hearing aids to pick out the signal of interest than it is for your brain. Digital hearing aids have made great improvements in this area. Today’s hearing aids are very good at processing complex sounds to pick out the most useful; however, it is unfortunate that on average, most people will wait much to long to get their first hearing aids; thereby, reducing the stimulation of the auditory portion of the brain during this time. First time hearing aid users need to literally retrain their brain to become accustomed to the wide range of sound stimulation they are experiencing once again.
Both your vision and your hearing are important senses which should be evaluated on a regular basis. Eye care professionals recommend that adults have their vision tested every two years, Hearing healthcare professionals recommend having a baseline hearing test at age 50, with follow up exams every two years after the age of 55. If you are experiencing any difficulty with either your hearing or your vision, you should seek medical treatment immediately.
Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is a licensed professional whose 26 year career has been devoted to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly. Dr. Crosby received her BS and MS degrees from FSU and her Doctorate in Audiology from UF. Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby is involved in creating hearing loss awareness through her jewelry and accessory company AuDBling.com. She has served and is serving on various professional boards and committees and was president of the Florida Academy of Audiology in 2000 and 2010. She has been married to Michael for 23 years and has one daughter.
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