Auditory distortion is the real concern if you have hearing loss.
Auditory distortion occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. Whether from congenital causes, heredity, noise exposure, the aging process, or some other form of inner ear damage, the person with a sensori-neural or “nerve type” of hearing loss typically experiences some degree of auditory distortion.
Auditory distortion leads to a degradation of sound quality and/or sound clarity, including speech sounds. Most of the time auditory distortion begins almost unnoticed. The “F” sound as in “FRANK” may be heard as an “S” sound as in “SANK.” This type of mild auditory distortion often leads to a misunderstanding of a question or statement. Sometimes in the presence of background noise auditory distortion can lead to a total communication breakdown.
As hearing loss progresses, auditory distortion affects more and more speech sounds. More words become unclear. Certain voices seem to be a total jumble of sounds. Background noise makes most speech totally unclear.
In advanced stages of hearing loss, the auditory cortex of the brain often loses its ability to decode signals that are not received clearly. This is when auditory distortion cannot only ruin one’s hearing, it can and has ruined lives.
If a hearing loss goes untreated for an extended period, auditory distortion can become permanent. Permanent auditory distortion cannot be corrected by the use of hearing aids or any other known therapy, but the regular use of hearing aids can often stabilize the progression of the distortion. However, total cessation or stabilization of the progression is rarely observed.
The key to reducing the risk of permanent auditory distortion is early treatment. Just as with any other progressive and active disease process, hearing loss must be detected and treated early if maximum results are to be expected.
A recent study suggests that the use of properly fitted hearing aids can reduce auditory distortion by as much as 85% in a five-year period. In practice, many audioprosthologists and audiologists have reported that they have found significantly more permanent auditory distortion in untreated ears that have received additional stimulation through the use of hearing aid therapy.
Therefore, there is hope for the many people who suffer from hearing loss: hope that they can add years of clarity to their hearing through the use of appropriately prescribed and professionally fitted hearing instruments.
Everyone should have a hearing evaluation at the first sign of a hearing loss. If you catch auditory distortion early and correct it with proper hearing devices, you will be doing your part to maximize your hearing ability for today, tomorrow, and for years to come.