24 Nov Consequences of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has three direct consequences with each lead to a range of secondary disadvantages.
- Impaired ability to hear sound (i.e. reduced ‘frequency selectivity’)
The most obvious effect of hearing loss is a reduction in the ability to hear the range of pitches that make up the sounds of the world. Certain pitches are usually effected more than others, meaning you hear some sounds very well (i.e. the low pitch bable of crowds in a restaurant or traffic noise) but struggle to hear other pitches at all (i.e. high pitch consonants that make speech ‘clear’).
- Inability to perceive the different loudness and timing of sounds at each ear
A less obvious but equally serious effect of hearing loss is the inability to recognise when sounds reach one ear slightly before the other or at a slightly different volume. Although we are not aware this is occurring, the brain is constantly working out these timing and volume differences. An inability to do this means you will find it difficult to determine where speech sounds are coming from so you cannot direct attention towards what is important and ignore unwanted background noise.
- Inability of the brain to turn sound into meaning
The ability to understand speech may deteriorate if the brain is not receiving all the speech sounds. It is otherwise known as a deficiency of Central Auditory Processing and results when the area of the brain that processes sounds into meaningful speech are not stimulated. The accuracy and speed at which the brain works will deteriorate, just like any part of our body that is not exercised. As a result, a person with hearing loss uses a lot more energy and brain power to follow even simple conversations in noise and may then suffer from what is known as ‘listener fatigue’.
The importance of hearing & the social impact of hearing loss
Communicating with others is a vital component to a good quality of life. Hearing loss will therefore effect a person’s relationships, lifestyle and general wellbeing as they struggle to enjoy social interaction with family and friends. The world is full of important and amazing sounds that we often take for granted. People are often amazed by the sounds of nature once they try hearing aids – the calls of birds, the sounds of waves lapping, the rattle of rain on a tin roof and the whistle of wind through the trees.
We aim to enhance each patients’ quality of life by improving not only the clearly apparent physiological disadvantages but by treating the significant psychosocial effects. Untreated hearing loss leads to strained relationships, tension, fatigue, embarrassment and social stress for both the patient and their family and friends. These commonly lead to sadness, depression, frustration, worry and anxiety as you the impairment causes one to avoid difficult listening situations and withdraw from social activities.