Brain "forgetting" sounds

I went to my new audio and he was saying that, if a person with hearing loss doesn’t get HA’s, in time the brain will stop recognizing sounds that it is no longer hearing. Sorry, not my area of expertise so I’m not describing this exactly as told to me. I’m posting this to see if others can explain this better.


This is true. The cochlea - the nerve center of hearing is tonotopically organized. This is a fancy way of saying that each section of the cochlea is responsible for a specific section of frequencies that we hear. The cochlea sends these frequency messages up the auditory nerve and onto the brain, where the sound is interpreted. When hearing loss occurs, certain sections are no longer stimulated and therefore those nerves are no longer stimulated either.

What happens over time, is that the nerves are deprived of those sounds and they become atrophied - just like your leg muscles if you were in a cast for a very very long time. Using a hearing aid, continues to provide the nerves with stimulation of sound and therefore prevents the atrophy. If someone waits a very long time to start using a hearing aid, sometimes the nerves have been deprived for so long, that they no longer work properly, even when stimulated.

What results is distortion. The nerves are being stimulated, but because they have been deprived for so long, they will indeed send messages up the auditory nerve to the brain, but the message is contaminated with distortion.

This is probably one of the biggest reasons why some people are not satisfied with their hearing using aids. It doesn’t sound how they remember, and there is extra “noise” in the signal they are hearing.

Let me be clear about this next point - this isn’t something that happens in a YEAR of having hearing loss. More like YEARS! So this isn’t meant to scare anyone, it’s just how the body handles hearing loss over time. But it certainly is why I advise everyone to have a ANNUAL HEARING EXAM. If you wait until your hearing is so bad, that you can’t function normally without a hearing aid, it can be too late.

Most hearing loss occurs gradually over time, and it is best to have a baseline hearing test, so that you and your professional can track changes over time.

Wow, that was long-winded of me :wink:

Hope that answered your question!


That was great, THANKS, Dr. Amy!

I experience the distortion you speak of in my left ear when my aid is set to target output in the 3-8K range. It is quite uncomfortable. My output is backed off in this range by a few db. At this level my “S” and “SH” recognition is fair but not nearly as good as my right ear and, of course, not as loud as my right ear. Is it possible that, in time, the nerves in this region may wake up somewhat so that target gain can be achieved without distortion.

Sorry, but your hearing at 3-4KHz just says ‘dead=spot’ to me. Your auditory resolution in this area is unlikely to ever sound as good as your better ear. That said, it might be worth ‘playing’ with more or less gain here to get a better overall effect from the aid - sometimes, winding the aid right down at the dead-spot results in better and less distorted performance from the speaker/receiver unit.

Thanks Um Bongo - Kinda what I figured. I think I will get my HIS to activate the Spectral IQ and see if there is any improvement. Do you think it might be of benefit ?

Which is why when you first get your new aids it may seem like the whole world is screaming at you. And then once you get used to your aids and take them out…well, welcome to the sounds of silence.

Sorry, i wasn’t as fast on the trigger for my response.

I agree with UB (as usual) - dead spot is the most practical thought.

Go ahead and have the spectral IQ turned on, but don’t expect a miracle, it can take some getting used to.

Good luck!!


I appreciate everyones input. Will post my results with the Spectral IQ.

Today I told my audiologist that not only was my hearing going but my memory as well. She there was a link between hearing loss and dementia. It has something to do with less stimulation in that part of the brain. So I’m hoping if I get hearing aids, my memory will get better or at least my memory loss will slow down. Has anyone else heard this. It actually made sense to me.

There has been several studies that show un treated hearing loss can bring on earlier onset of dementia and or alzheimers. However, as all medical studies go this could be discounted in several years once further studies are conducted. Getting HA is never a bad thing since it will improve your life and those around you. Good luck!

Thanks. I ordered the ReSound Futures yesterday. The hearing aid specialist at Costco said it would be Monday before I could pick them up since he was taking Thursday and Friday of this week off. I’m so exited and looking forward to being able to hear what I’ve been missing.