Residual hearing is the hearing ability that you have left once you experience natural hearing loss. The term residual hearing is also used to describe how well one can hear without the use of hearing aids. When you first begin to experience hearing loss, you might think it does not really matter how good your residual hearing is. Hearing loss can certainly feel defeating and discouraging for many. However, it is of vital importance that you do everything in your power to protect your residual hearing for the rest of your life.
What is so important about residual hearing?
Residual hearing is important mainly because of the fact that hearing loss cannot be cured, only treated. When any degree of hearing loss is successfully treated by hearing aids, this does not mean that those hearing aids will always be sufficient. Hearing aids work by amplifying the sounds you typically hear into a louder version that your ears can still detect. Since they are programmed depending on your specific kind of hearing loss, it is important to keep your
remaining hearing ability stable in order for the hearing aids to continue to work.
For example,some people may have “high-frequency” hearing loss, and others may have “low-frequency” hearing loss. If someone with high-frequency hearing loss is being effectively treated by their own specialized hearing aids, a further deterioration of hearing capability may render these hearing aids insufficient.
Overall, experts claim that hearing aids in general can work more effectively when the patient has better residual hearing. Because of this, it is very important that individuals experiencing hearing loss put in the work to protect their residual hearing.
How to best preserve your residual hearing
Wear your hearing aids
Though this may seem like common sense, it is a good idea to continually wear your hearing aids. Hearing aids can take an extensive amount of time to obtain, especially if they are specially customized. But once you get your hands on your hearing aids, you should try to wear them wherever you go. The amplified sounds that are crafted by your hearing aids stimulate your auditory nerves and prevent your brain from changing brain cell activity to focus on other functions besides hearing.
Losing auditory nerve cell activity can happen to anyone, but is especially prevalent for elderly people experiencing age-related hearing loss. Just as the amount of time to receive your hearing aids initially can be extensive, you may have to take the time to make several trips back to your hearing care professional for adjustments. These adjustments are very important in ensuring that your hearing aids are accurately amplifying sounds to a frequency that your auditory nerves can still process. If you are struggling with hearing well in certain environments, do not hesitate to let your hearing care provider know.
When the proper adjustments have been made and you can hear clearly while using your hearing aids, start to wear them as much as possible. It is important for you to gradually work up to wearing them whenever you are not sleeping. Experts say that there is a good chance your residual hearing will decline if you are not wearing your hearing aids consistently.
Consider two hearing aids
Even if your hearing loss is significantly different in both ears, your audiologist will encourage you to wear two customized hearing aids instead of just one hearing aid in the ear with more severe hearing loss.
Having clear hearing in both ears is very important in depth perception. If you can hear better in one ear than the other, you may struggle with identifying what direction around you sounds are originating from.
It still may be a good idea to wear hearing aids in both ears even if one has no hearing loss. This will protect the residual hearing ability in the unaided ear. Because hearing aids function by amplifying sound, it is detrimental to the hearing in your “good ear” if the “bad ear” is being differentially stimulated by the hearing aid amplification. In this case, under-stimulation of the auditory nerve of your “good ear” could deteriorate your residual hearing in that ear more quickly than the other.
Reduce excess noise exposure
Though hearing aids will enhance your ability to hear all kinds of noises, it is still important for you to reduce the amount of noises your ears are exposed to. Excess loud noises have the ability to damage your inner ear hair cells that allow you to hear, even while you have hearing aids in. If you experience sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss, then this means noise is actively damaging your hearing nerve.
Although you may have turned the volume on your radio or TV up extremely high before you got hearing aids, you should definitely keep these devices at a low volume after you start using hearing aids. With the help of your hearing aids, you ought to be able to hear your electronic devices perfectly fine without them being set at a high volume.
Loud equipment is another thing to be conscious around once you experience age-related hearing loss. Common yard tools that you may be accustomed to probably emit noises that are loud enough to potentially damage your inner ear hair cells. Be sure to always wear foam earplugs or noise-canceling earmuffs when you use noisy equipment. Also, be conscious of this when you are out in an urban environment where loud noises are common because of construction and street performances.
Custom-fitted musician earplugs might be a wise purchase if you are a musician are you often watch indoor concerts for fun. These specialized earplugs will allow you to still hear a full range of sounds but will deamplify them so that they are safe for your ears to process.
Talk to an Expert
If you have other diagnosed health conditions that cause you to take medications, you ought to talk to your audiologist about your hearing loss. A variety of prescription drugs can actually create new hearing problems or cause tinnitus.
Eat healthy foods
As with all parts of the body, a healthy diet is important for maintaining the important functions of the ears. Studies show that diets rich in vitamins and minerals prevent people from losing inner ear hair cells and improve blood flow to the inner ear.
Brain stimulation is key
There are many different kinds of activities that stimulate the brain to keep it young and healthy.
According to experts, learning an instrument can even go as far as improving your hearing. These experts claim that learning new musical instruments will likely improve your auditory memory scores and increase your ability to hear speech in loud environments.
Talk to your audiologist
If you are unsure how you can best take care of your residual hearing, it is always a good idea to reach out to your hearing care specialist. These individuals can guide you based on your circumstances to ensure that you have the resources you need to succeed in protecting your hearing.