One in eight people in the United States (13 percent, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations, reports the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). While hearing loss can occur at any age, the population most affected is older adults. By the time people reach 65 one in three will have hearing loss and this number rises quickly in the next decade where one in two 75 and older suffer from hearing loss. It’s the third most chronic condition facing older adults, having a serious impact on communication, relationships, mood, cognitive health, mobility, and more. Despite its serious implications, of those 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from treatment around hearing loss, fewer than one in three (30 percent) seek relief.
Denial Around Hearing Loss
Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to self-diagnose hearing loss. It often starts subtly enough that many don’t recognize the loss in decibels they experience. As hearing loss gradually develops over years, many normalize this loss in sound. It’s often not until people are in the most ideal of listening environments that they even will admit they have a problem. On average, people wait 10 years from the time they suspect they have a hearing loss to even think about seeking treatment.
Treating Hearing Loss
The most common treatment for hearing loss, accounting for 80% of all cases, is hearing aids. These tiny electronic devices fit in or around the ear canal and convert sound waves into electrical signals which are then amplified towards the inner ear. Thanks to digital technology, instead of amplifying every sound your hearing aid picks up, digital hearing aids can now be programmed based on a hearing exam to only amplify the sounds you struggle with. This lends itself to a more organic listening experience. With hearing aids, you can enjoy renewed enjoyment in social interaction. You will no longer struggle to hear what people are saying and this often leads to increased self-esteem and more likeliness to try new things. However, the average time it takes a person with hearing loss to take action even after their initial diagnosis and try hearing aids is ten years.
The Severe Impact of Hearing Loss
Many people mistake hearing loss as only an ear issue when the communication barriers it creates can have reverberating effects across all aspects of your health. Communication allows us to feel close to the people we love. Lasting connections are often the glue that roots us to life and gives us a sense of home. The unfortunate reality is that untreated hearing loss has the potential to drive a wedge in even the most secure relationships, such as those experienced with a significant other.
These rifts in relationships continue through all areas of your life, with family, friends, and can even cause early retirement. For seniors, social connections are more important than ever. As communication becomes more and more of a challenge, it’s common for people to avoid social situations in favor of self-isolation. This can be difficult as we age. Loneliness is a major risk factor for dementia and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
Other potential health impacts from hearing loss include increased stress, headaches, muscle tension, hypertension, chronic depression, fatigue, and social withdrawal
Benefits of Treatment
It can be jarring when you first use hearing aids. Sounds you may not have heard for years or even decades return, and it can feel overwhelming. It’s important to not give up even if they are uncomfortable to adjust to at first. Hearing aids can make it possible to reconnect with loved ones and can even lower the risk of cognitive decline, falls, and accidents. Hearing aids can allow you to regain a sense of self and you may be more likely to try new things. Give hearing aids a try. You may find a new interest in living which you haven’t felt in years. You’ll never know unless you try. The first step is to schedule a hearing test with us today.