Use it or lose it? Also known as adult auditory deprivation

Auditory Deprivation and Hearing Loss

The human body functions best when it's used. It functions optimally when all the parts are given a workout each day. The human body operates on a "use it or lose it" scenario and the auditory system is no different.

Auditory deprivation describes a significant decrease in an unaided ear's ability to recognize speech and a decrease in general hearing ability due to a lack of auditory stimulation. In other words, the ability of the auditory system to process speech declines due to lack of stimulation (hearing loss). With auditory deprivation, the brain gradually loses some of its auditory processing ability which would affect one's general hearing ability.

When you get a hip or knee replacement, the day after surgery, the physical therapists encourage you to walk. It has been proven that the sooner you get to work on that stainless steel body part, the faster your recovery period.

The body's various systems - skeletal, sensory, muscular and other systems will atrophy - become weakened - with prolonged non-use. For example, if you take up jogging, the first morning jog may have you aching all over the next day. The most effective way to do it is to start off slowly, and gradually increase the exercise time.

Hearing loss is most often gradual in nature, and therefore, a hearing problem may not be evident for some time. As we age, our bodies become less efficient and organs run less efficiently.

There is a growing collection of research and detailed studies that indicate that individuals with hearing loss are better helped when they act quickly to resolve their hearing difficulties. When the hearing nerves and areas within the brain are deprived of sound, they tend to atrophy or weaken over time. Prolonged lack of stimulation makes the process of wearing a hearing aid more difficult. We refer to this as auditory deprivation, first reported in 1984 (Silman et al., 1992).

The key to avoid auditory deprivation and an adverse affect on your hearing is to keep the auditory system active and not to let the parts of the auditory system stay dormant. The sooner you activate these centers of the auditory system and the brain when you first notice hearing loss, the greater the success you will have to hear.

Research clearly indicates that the longer you ignore hearing loss, the more difficult it is to treat. The sooner you address hearing loss with hearing aids, the better the outcome you will have with hearing aids and the process of adapting to hearing aids. Regardless, the best treatment for auditory deprivation is to take the necessary steps to avoid it in the first place.

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Dieroff, H. (1993). Late-Onset Auditory Inactiity (deprivation) in Persons with Bilateral Essentially Symmetric and Conductive Hearing Impairment. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 4(5): 347-350.

Dillon, H. (2001). Hearing Aids. Boomerang Press. Sydney, Australia.

Gelfand, S. (1995). Long-Term Recovery and no Recovery from the Auditory Deprivation Effect with Binaural Amplification: Six Cases. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 6(2): 141-149.

Gelfand, S., Silman, S., and Ross, L. (1987) Long-Term Effects of Monaural, Binaural, and no Amplification in Subjects with Bilateral Hearing Loss. Scandinavian Audiology. 16(4): 201-07.

Gatehouse, S. (1981). Apparent Auditory Deprivation Effects of Lat Onset: the Role of Presentation Level. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, 86(6): 2103-06.

Hood, J. (1984). Speech discrimination in Bilateral and Unilateral Hearing Loss Due to Meniere's Disease. British Journal of Audiology. 18(3): 173-77.

Hurley, R.M. (1993). Monaural Hearing Aid Effect: Case Presentations. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 4(5): 285-295.

Hurley, R.M. (1999). Onset of Auditory Deprivation. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 10(10): 529-34.

Kral, A., Harmann, R., Tillein, J., Heid, S., and Klinke, R. (2000). Congenital Auditory Deprivation Reduces Synaptic Activity within the Auditory Cortex in a Layer Specific Manner. Cerebral Cortex, Volume 10, Number 7. PP. 714-726(13).

Kral. A., Tillein, J., Heid, S., Hartmann, R., and Klinke, R. (2005). Postnatal Cortical Development in Congenital Auditory Deprivation. Cereb. Cortex. 15(5): 552-562.

Robinson, K. & Gatehouse, S. (1995). Changes in Intensity Discrimination Following Monaural Long-Term Use of a Hearing Aid. Journal of the Acoustic Society of American, 97(2): 1183-90.

Siegenthaler, B., and Craig, C., (1981). Monaural vs Binaural Speech Reception Threshold and Word Discrimination Scores in the Hearing Impaired. Journal of Auditory Research, 21(2): 133-135.

Silman, S., Silverman, C.A., Emmer, M.B., and Gelfand, S.A. (1992). Adult-Onset Auditory Deprivation. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. Nov:3(6): 390-6.

Silverman, C., and Silman, S. (1990). Apparent Auditory Deprivation from Monaural Amplification and Recovery with Binaural Amplification: Two Case Studies. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 1(4): 175-80.

Turgeon, C., Johnson, A., Pannasche, S., and Ellemberg, D. (2009). Auditory Deprivation During Infancy Affects the Control of Pursuit Eye Movements. Journal of Vision, Vol 9, Article 425.

Other Resources & Helpful Hearing Links

Living with hearing loss brings many challenges. Here are helpful links to many hearing resources.

Better Hearing Institute

Educational Resource Center on Deafness

Hearing Loss Association of America

Hearing Health Foundation

Listen Up