Is recognizing speech like riding a bike? Is it a skill that never goes away once you’ve learned it? Or, can adult onset hearing loss negatively impact speech recognition?

Researchers have been asking that question for a long time. Three different studies — in 1984, 1987 and 1999, respectively — resulted in evidence that suggests auditory deprivation does have speech recognition consequences.

All three studies focused on people with bilateral hearing loss, who only wore a hearing aid in one ear. The findings showed signs of reduced speech recognition in unaided ears, suggesting that if we don’t use it, we may indeed lose it.