Auditory Deprivation and How It Can Affect You

Elderly woman touching her ears with the tips of her fingers, visibly struggling to hear.

What Is Auditory Deprivation?

Auditory deprivation occurs when your brain stops receiving and interpreting sound as a result of hearing loss, leading to atrophy of the brain and possible issues with processing auditory stimuli even when you begin wearing hearing aids.

Auditory deprivation can affect individuals with any level of hearing loss, not just those whose condition is severe. According to the authors of a study called ‘Cross-Modal Re-Organization in Adults with Early Stage Hearing Loss’, changes in brain function and the way the brain organises and utilises cognitive resources not only begin in the initial stages of hearing loss, but could also be a significant factor in ‘determining behavioural outcomes for listeners with hearing loss’.

Hearing Loss and Brain Function

Hearing impairment has been linked to accelerated atrophy of the brain. It is thought that a lack of sound input leads to the brain cells being understimulated and as a result, the brain shrinks as it no longer has to work to interpret sound.

Scientist looking at MRI brain scan.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute of Aging used information from the ongoing Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging to compare how the brain changes over time between adults with normal hearing and adults with hearing loss. The results of the study indicated that although the brain does become smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be accelerated for adults with hearing loss.

Why Does Auditory Deprivation Occur?

Hearing loss usually develops gradually, and it isn’t always possible to seek medical help for the condition straight away as you might not initially realise that you have it. Many individuals, however, tend to ignore the problem even when the symptoms are obvious, hesitant to reach out for help due to the stigma that is still (more or less) attached to hearing loss in society. Unfortunately, ignored or not, the condition still develops, as does auditory deprivation.

Alternatively, the problem could occur if you’ve received a diagnosis and treatment for your hearing loss, but fail to consistently wear your hearing aids, or only wear one when you have problems with both of your ears.

Is Auditory Deprivation Reversible?

It is still not clear if atrophy of the brain is permanent, and it is highly possible that this could vary from person to person.

It is thought that due to the brain’s flexibility, it is able to make a lot of adjustments and that when it starts receiving auditory stimuli once again, new connections can form. According to a study from, adverse effects in the brain could improve with consistent use of hearing aids, slowing down or completely stopping brain atrophy and helping the brain interpret sound signals again.

Getting Used to Your Hearing Aids

As hearing loss is usually gradual, you (and your brain) get used to it. When you first begin wearing hearing aids, background noises, as well as the sound of your own voice, can seem loud and overwhelming.

The good news is that with time, your brain will adjust to the auditory stimuli and will re-learn which sounds are important and which can be ignored. Try to gradually build up the time you spend wearing your hearing aids and you will most likely notice that the more time you spend using them, the easier it becomes to manage background noise.

The Importance of Early Assessment

In order to prevent or reverse auditory deprivation, you will need to address your hearing loss. If you begin to manage your hearing condition, you will help your brain resume its normal functioning.

To do this, you will need to reach out for medical assistance to have a diagnostic hearing evaluation performed. This will help your hearing care provider determine the level and type of hearing loss, as well as the most suitable treatment.

ENT doctor performing a tympanometry test

The next step in preventing auditory deprivation is to receive adequate treatment for your hearing loss. In most cases, this will be the use of suitable hearing aids. Your hearing care provider will recommend the most appropriate model in accordance with your type and level of hearing loss, as well as your personal preferences. There is a wide range of hearing aid models available on the market nowadays, and anyone can discover a product to fit their lifestyle.

Do you think you might be suffering from undiagnosed hearing loss? We’ve got you! Hear4U provide free, no-obligation hearing tests using the latest diagnostic technology in the field to receive an in-depth idea of your ability to hear so that we can establish a clear, precise diagnosis and the most suitable treatment. Additionally, we offer a robust range of the latest hearing aids to provide you with hearing support of the utmost quality. You can book your free-of-charge appointment by Clicking here