Age related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the third most common medical condition people experience today. According to the National Institutes on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 1 in every 3 adults between the ages of 65 – 74 have hearing loss. This increases to half of all adults, 75 and older, having hearing loss. Though hearing loss is pervasive, it is also often untreated. The NIDCD estimates that only one third of people who could benefit from treatment actually receive it.
Additionally, it takes an average of 7 years for people to address hearing loss symptoms. Untreated hearing loss not only takes a toll on hearing and communication, but relationships, social life, and health as well. It is important to recognize the signs of hearing loss and to intervene as early as possible.
The Undertreatment of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Research shows that hearing loss tends to be widely undertreated. This includes a significant study that was recently published by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Researchers examined the scope of untreated hearing loss by surveying a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,500 adults. Key findings include:
- 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 highlight how common untreated hearing loss is. Additional research illuminates contributing factors to this delay in treatment. It can be tough to acknowledge the reality of hearing loss and confront the changes to hearing health.
There are also numerous misconceptions and stigma associated with hearing loss. Studies show that people often think that hearing loss is not too serious of a medical condition and one that can be cured later on. However, hearing loss is a chronic condition and the longer it remains untreated, the more vulnerable hearing becomes.
Recognizing Early Signs
Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so it can take some time to realize the changes happening to your hearing health. This contributes to a delay in treatment and highlights the importance of being able to recognize early signs. Common signs include the following:
- Sounds are distorted or muffled.
- Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing like noise in one or both ears.
- Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise.
- Asking others to repeat themselves or speak louder.
- Missing words or parts of a conversation, struggling to keep up.
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices like the TV or phone.
- Pretending to hear, lip reading to identify individual words.
- Feeling fatigued after conversations and social interactions.
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to more profoundly, depending on the degree of hearing loss present. Symptoms take a toll on communication which is a key way we navigate daily life. Strained communication impacts relationships, social life, work performance, and overall health. Extensive research shows that untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of health conditions like cognitive decline, accidental injuries, and depressive symptoms.
If you recognize any of these symptoms, it is important to have your hearing health assessed as soon as possible.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health Today
The first step you can take to prioritize your hearing health is scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. Facilitated by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests identify any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you are experiencing. Once your hearing needs are established, we are able to establish a tailored treatment plan to meet those needs.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These are electronic devices that are designed to provide the ears and brain with support processing sound. Today’s hearing aids have experienced significant innovations. There is a wide range of features, styles, and technologies that maximize hearing capacity and overall experience. Treating hearing loss offers many life changing benefits including transforming hearing and communication which benefits all aspects of life.