Wrapping your mind around changes to your hearing health can be tough. People typically associate hearing loss with aging and deteriorating health. These common misconceptions can prevent people from acknowledging and addressing their hearing loss which contributes to why hearing loss remains so underdiagnosed. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, only one third of people who could benefit from hearing loss treatment actually receive it. Untreated hearing loss can have multifaceted effects on communication, relationships, social and work life, as well as overall health. Recognizing hearing loss symptoms and intervening as early as possible can profoundly improve your quality and longevity of life.
Hearing Loss is Widely Undertreated
It is estimated that it takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss symptoms. Not only can this worsen impairment, but it can take a toll on one’s health. There are numerous studies that investigate how undertreated hearing loss is. This includes a recently published study conducted by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association on hearing loss inaction. Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,500 adults and found that:
- 2 in 10 adults have had a hearing test in the past 5 years, compared to 6 in 10 adults who have had their vision tested.
- More than 51% of people reported hearing issues but only 11% have sought treatment.
- 78% of those with hearing issues have been experiencing these challenges for 1 or more years, and over 35% have had trouble for 5 or more years.
These findings show that hearing health not only isn’t prioritized but that many people actively ignore their hearing loss symptoms.
Recognizing the Hearing Loss Signs
Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so people may not readily notice they are experiencing hearing loss for quite some time. This highlights the importance of being aware of common symptoms so you can identify and intervene as early as possible. Impaired reduces one’s ability to perceive and process sound, producing a range of symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing like noise that can be heard in one or both ears.
- Sounds are slurred, muffled, or distorted.
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder or slower.
- Saying “huh” or “what” in response to others.
- Increasing the volume on the TV, phone, and other electronic devices.
- Being able to hear more clearly out of one ear compared to the other.
- Missing words or parts of a conversation.
- Lip reading to help identify individual words.
- Difficulty keeping up with a conversation, pretending to hear.
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to profoundly, depending on the degree of hearing loss present. If left untreated, these symptoms can continue to strain communication which often leads to social withdrawal. This impacts relationships, social engagement, and mental health. Seeking treatment is a critical way to change the trajectory of your health.
Benefits of Treatment
The first step you can take to address hearing loss is having your hearing tested. Hearing tests are conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist. This involves a noninvasive and painless process that assesses your hearing abilities in each ear. Hearing tests are a comprehensive way to identify and diagnose your hearing needs which then informs treatment options. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb and process sound. This provides the ears and brain with significant support, alleviating hearing loss symptoms and maximizing hearing capacity. Hearing aids offer countless life changing benefits including:
- Strengthens communication: people are better able to engage in conversation without having to deal with hearing loss symptoms. Hearing aids maximize hearing capacity which allows people to smoothly navigate conversations.
- Improves relationships: effective communication is essential for sustaining relationships. Being able to have rich conversations with others and spend quality time supports greater intimacy and closeness.
- Reduces health risks: extensive research shows that treating hearing loss reduces health risks. This includes cognitive decline, accidental injuries, and depression. Hearing aids strengthen brain health, increase spatial awareness, adn boost wellness.
These benefits help people live more enjoyable and fulfilling lives. Treating hearing loss improves overall health which enhances quality of life.