A couple of common questions we get are “Why do I need follow-up appointments?” and “Why am I still trying to adjust to my hearing aids?” Put simply, hearing loss is gradual, so your better-hearing journey will be, too. In fact, after the first subtle signs of hearing loss, the average person waits seven years
Your auditory cortex is the part of your brain that processes sound input from your ears. It’s excellent at its job, but only when it gets quality information. Even a minor hearing loss can garble sound clarity, so your auditory cortex can’t do its job well.
Other areas of your brain have to put down what they’re doing and come help the auditory cortex — areas responsible for important things like thinking and memory, as well as speech processing. The result — decreased brainpower.
Even in the early stages of hearing loss, you adopt coping skills: reading lips, facial expressions, and body language, as well as leading with your “good ear.” You might not even realize you have coping strategies, because they’re subtle and you adopt them slowly.
As hearing loss increases, your coping gets more involved — nodding and fake smiling, laughing only because you notice others laughing — until you begin to avoid socializing altogether.
Out of Practice
And that’s why, when you get hearing devices, there’s an adjustment. After months or years of poor sound input because of your hearing loss, your auditory cortex is out of practice. It has forgotten how to do its job, and the rest of your brain is in the same boat. After years of helping your auditory cortex, the other areas of your brain are out of practice in their primary jobs.
It’s like starting an exercise program: At first it’s awkward and you tire easily, because your body isn’t accustomed to so much movement and exertion. In a similar way, when you start to use hearing aids, your brain processes sound input awkwardly and gets tired easily, because it’s not accustomed to handling so much quality sound input.
Back to Basics
With hearing devices, you’re supplying your auditory cortex with fresh, ungarbled sound input, and it needs to relearn how to process it. This goes for each environment in your world — your house, your work, your favorite restaurants. Your brain has to relearn best practices for processing good sound input in different situations.
That’s why we build in complimentary follow-ups: Every time you go out into your world and retrain your brain to process sound, you notice ways your devices could be better. Reporting back during follow-ups lets us tailor your device more specifically to the sounds of your world.
If you feel like your devices could use some fine-tuning, contact Fagan Center for Audiology to schedule an appointment!