You…that was precisely the subject in an email I got yesterday. And in the message body was this…

Hi Sam,

Read your latest blog on hearing. Very interesting. One question. If the hearing aids make everything just sound like noise and you can’t distinguish words, why wear them? I know that’s why a lot of older people refuse to wear them. Just curious

That is an “excellent question”. To be quiet (that is NOT a typo!) honest with you, that was how it was with me. When I was growing up, the emphasis was on lip-reading. Lip reading, or speech-reading, is the ability to understand speech by looking at the other person’s face, lips, expressions and body language. Apparently, there was no attempt to train the brain to distinguish sound intelligently. After all, a hearing aid is nothing more than an amplifier. It only made sound louder but it never gave the brain the ability to footprint that sound.

I am not a scientist and I have no clue what the right side of my brain does that the left doesn’t, and vice versa, but it seems that the part that interprets sound is different from the part that makes sense of it. So for most of my life, I am hearing these “noises” but without any other means of assistance it is just that…noise. And regardless of the method or madness, the brain had no clue what it meant. If you still can’t figure that out trust me, you aren’t alone.

A cochlear implant (we call them CI) is different. The cochlear and its inner workings are the very pieces the brain needs to make sense of sound. A CI takes sound and makes sense out of it. It sends a signal to a different part of the brain that knows what to do with that signal without any assistance. A hearing aid doesn’t come near that part of the brain.

There is also another “noise’ that bothers people especially the elderly (I am not THAT old…yet!). It’s called tinnitus. It’s that nagging noise in your head…the ringing, aircraft engine, siren, orchestra, endlessly going off. Nothing can stop it and research is still trying to figure it out. But hearing aids and CIs are known to mask it.

So dear reader, I hope I have enlightened you and answered your question. If not, fire away….I can always use more fodder for this blog!

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