Hearing is important throughout our lifetime, from before our birth to the last moments before we die. The developing fetus begins to hear at 20 weeks of gestation. A newborn infant already has a preference for its Mother’s voice. At the other end of the lifespan, it is widely believed that hearing is the last sense to fade before we die. Even though they may not be able to acknowledge us, someone close to death can likely hear us.
I have had the privilege of diagnosing hearing loss and fitting hearing aids on people across the age spectrum. The youngest person was 2 months old when fit with hearing aids. That child grew to put on hearing aids (she called them her ears) just as naturally as she put on her socks. A young brain has tremendous plasticity and generally adapts quite well to appropriate auditory stimulation. Research also shows that the brain’s plasticity continues into our senior years. That said, when it comes to rehabilitating hearing loss, it is generally a harder task the older the patient is. I was therefore a little bit skeptical when a gentleman recently brought in his 100 year old Mother who had never worn a hearing aid before. He was having to yell to speak to her.
Fitting hearing instruments is as much an art as it is a science, especially when it comes to a case such as this. I was very pleased when, at the end of the trial period, both the gentleman and his Mother were happy with the results. He did not have to yell and she could participate in the conversations. Just in time for her 101st birthday.