Updated: May 7
I often get this question from patients with mild or mild to moderate hearing loss, "can I use my hearing aids now and then?", or, "can I use my hearing aids only when I watch TV?".
Continue reading to learn if you should use your hearing aids all the time or if you can wear them on and off.
We hear with our brain, not with our ears!
At first, it seems strange but the truth is that our ears amplify received sound waves then turn them into electrical signals and send them to our brain. This is the brain that interprets the received signal and makes sense of hearing out of them.
The same goes with our other senses, for example, we don't see with our eyes, they only transduce the amount of light, colour composition and other visual input into electrical signals and then forward it up to our brain. Again the brain interprets the received signal into shapes, colours, textures, etc.
The other magical power of our brain!
Another fantastic thing about our brain is that brain has a degree of plasticity. Also, it has a built-in self-adjustment system for the received signals. Let me explain this through an example. Have you noticed that when you step into a dark room, or if you switch off the light, it takes a few seconds for your visibility in the dark to improve?
Hearing impairment for most people doesn't happen at once, instead, it happens very very gradually. The deterioration is so subtle that our brains to some extent adjust to it. As a result of the drop in hearing and change that happens in the brain some notice a side effect called tinnitus. The brain tries to amplify the frequencies that it is not receiving (often high frequencies) more than usual and causes a perception of sound in our head (more on tinnitus here).
When you start using hearing aids it might have been years from the time that the decline in your hearing had started. As a result, your auditory cortex (the part of the brain that processes the received signals from your ears) is not in the state that it was 5, 10 or 15 years ago when you had no hearing loss. During all this time your brain has been going through a shift. That is why when you start using hearing aids you might feel that everything seems much louder than before, or the details of sound felt to be overwhelming.
Hearing aids wearers for the first time are advised to wear the hearing aids as much as possible. Perhaps starting with 2-3 hours at home for the first week, then use them for a longer period of time in the second week but ultimately they should be worn all the time.
So, back to the question, can I wear my hearing aids only for watching the TV, or only when I go out to a restaurant or pub? The answer is yes, absolutely but it is not recommended. The reason is that you need to allow your brain to adjust to the new sound input. Unless you wear them all the time the brain may not adjust fast enough or adjust properly to the new sound of the hearing aids and you may not benefit from improved speech recognition that comes with the hearing aids.
In the market to buy a pair of new hearing aids in the UK? Read through this article to learn more about what you should consider before buying a new hearing aid.