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For people with hearing loss, particularly that which is the result of aging, its effects can range from mild to severe. One challenge that people with age-related hearing loss face is letting go of their attachment to their previously healthy hearing and mourning its loss. However, once our hearing health has decreased and the important step of confronting hearing loss happens, we are more aware than ever of the hearing we have left.
This ratio of hearing health has a name — residual hearing — and what we do with the hearing we have left is profoundly important.
What Is Residual Hearing?
After suffering some level of hearing loss, a person often retains in some part their previous hearing capacity. This is referred to as residual hearing. It is defined as the degree to which a person’s hearing is still usable despite the fact that they have a hearing impairment. This residual hearing may be different for each individual and might range from being very mild to being quite powerful.
Working with the hearing left after hearing loss makes its entrance is extremely important. The amount of residual hearing present determines many factors involved in ease of communication, like speech clarity in noisy backgrounds and environmental noises like important traffic cues. Your residual hearing works in tandem with hearing loss solutions like hearing aids to boost hearing ability back up as close to normal as possible.
Other Impacts Of Residual Hearing
And while it’s seductive to continue to mourn the hearing levels we’ve lost, there is much to be grateful for in recognizing what hearing levels remain. On a more subtle note, residual hearing can have major impacts on quality of life markers.
For instance, being able to continue enjoying music plays a big role in how many people assess their life’s quality and residual hearing plays a large role in that ability.
And, as hearing aid and cochlear implant technology continues to improve, maintaining the highest possible residual hearing levels possible for each individual can have major implications down the road, providing even greater return to normal hearing as the mechanics of hearing loss solutions develop further.
How To Protect Residual Hearing
All of this is to say, take steps to protect the hearing levels you have. Developing a cavalier attitude about your hearing health once hearing loss appears is a bit like breaking one egg and deciding to throw the whole carton on the ground.
Instead, adopt these simple attitudes of protection and introduce them slowly into your lifestyle until they become second nature to you.
Wear Hearing Aids
Like a muscle, the auditory system of your ears and brain function best when they are consistently used. Studies support that depriving the auditory system of stimulus (ie, sound) in turn weakens its ability, so that when stimulus such as sound is reintroduced later, the brain has a much harder time processing the sound information into meaning.
Using devices like hearing aids, cochlear implants or hearing assistive devices can help to provide consistent stimulus in the form of sound information to keep the connections between the ear and brain ‘in shape’ for easier listening, fortifying residual hearing.
Noise exposure is the number one cause of hearing loss that we can control. Starting today, enact a hard and fast rule around volumes on personal devices and wherever you listen to auditory entertainment. Begin setting your volume at halfway and keeping it there. Notice what happens when you institute this change: is it quieter than you’d typically set it? Only in rare circumstances can you go over 50 percent and never exceed two-thirds of maximum volume.
Invest In Hearing Protection
This step is only applicable if you participate in loud recreational activities that could potentially harm your hearing. Before you count yourself out of this advice, read on to see what types of activities might be harmful to your hearing because they may surprise you.
If you’re a fan of live music, it’s a good idea to get custom ear plugs (or even foam earplugs in a pinch) to protect your hearing. Most concerts, even symphonic ones, creep into dangerous decibel territory.
Sports fans aren’t exempt either. Stadiums with raucous fans also spike noise levels that are harmful when exposure lasts longer than a few seconds, so season ticket holders should also investigate earplugs or noise canceling headphones.
Schedule A Hearing Consultation
Protecting your current hearing starts with accurately assessing your current hearing health. Schedule a consultation with our highly trained team today, where we can lead you through a simple hearing exam to investigate any present hearing loss. From there, we’ll work with you to guide you toward your healthiest hearing possible.