Why People with Hearing Loss Still Need to Protect Their Hearing

August 5, 2023
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If you broke your wrist, you wouldn’t stop using the other wrist. In fact, what’s way more likely to happen with an injury or change in ability is that the body learns to compensate with the mobility and facility it has left. 

Such is the case with residual hearing, the hearing levels that remain after acquired hearing loss begins to make an appearance. 

And when there has been a decline in hearing health, the hearing you have left becomes integral to retaining a vibrant and full life. 

How Hearing Loss Works

Noise and aging are the two leading contributors to the type of hearing loss that shows up later in life. Age remains the greatest predictor of hearing loss, with one in three people over the age of 65 living with the condition. Young people are more prone to find their hearing loss is related to the amount of exposure to excessive noise their ears have suffered.  

Both noise-induced and age-related hearing loss are considered progressive and irreversible conditions.

Both factors harm the important inner ear cells that carry a lion’s share of the hearing process. These cells, tiny and powerful, receive noise vibrations from the world around us and turn it into electrical impulses, or sound information. This information is sent to the brain via the auditory nerve for processing. It’s a complex process that happens almost instantaneously. 

As time and excessive noise exposure degrades the inner ear cells, they lose their ability to function. Neither repairing themselves nor replacing numbers lost, once we lose access to our full cadre of inner ear cells, we are unable to fully collect noise frequencies and we experience this as hearing loss. Typically, we lose access to higher frequency sounds first.

Ways Residual Hearing Helps

The hearing we have left, residual hearing, continues to play an important role in maintaining awareness of the world around us and it even plays into how we treat hearing loss. 

The hearing we have left gets tapped when we use an intervention, like hearing aids, which amplify sound directly into the ear. It’s recommended to treat hearing loss as soon as it appears, so that we still have the ability to process some of the frequencies and sound pathways to the brain that begin to fall dormant when previous stimuli stop appearing. Essentially, engaging the strongest residual hearing possible helps to successfully transition into healthy hearing through assistive measures like hearing aids and cochlear implants. 

We can also thank residual hearing for assisting us with environmental sounds, which can help keep us safe in the world. We may not be able to understand speech as effortlessly as before, but residual hearing accounts for being able to hear warning sounds like a bike bell ringing, a dog barking or a car horn honking.

Take Steps To Stop Progression

Just because some of your previously healthy levels of hearing have disappeared doesn’t mean you should ignore protecting the hearing you have left. If you broke one of a dozen eggs, would you throw the whole carton out? 

The factor in future hearing loss in which we have the most control is exposure to excessive noise. 

Protecting Hearing Health From Noise

There are simple tweaks you can make to everyday life and listening habits that help to protect your residual hearing. Most importantly, become vigilant about the volume levels you control and try to keep them to a minimum at which you can still hear.

In the car or at home, pick a reasonable volume and stick with it. It you notice you’re having trouble hearing, eliminate external noise factors (like a window open or the clothes dryer) before cranking up the volume.

Personal listening devices, ones we use headphones or earbuds with, should be a big focus in future listening rituals. This applies especially if you are a person who is plugged in for more than a few hours a day. Keep these volumes at midway and never exceed two-thirds of maximum. Earbuds can deliver excess noise up to 100 decibels, which well exceeds our safe listening limit.

Schedule A Hearing Consultation

Don’t wait for noise and time to interfere with your life, schedule a hearing consultation today. We can confidently assess your current hearing health and choose a direction forward that guarantees you the best possible hearing both right now and in the future.