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Did you know that hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States? It affects approximately 20% of the population. In older populations, age 65 and older, one in three people experience hearing loss. This number rises to 50% for people age 75 or older. With these statistics, the reality is, most of us know someone who is experiencing hearing loss – whether it is a grandparent, parent, spouse, or colleague.
At the same time, because hearing loss is an invisible condition, in which people learn to adapt to the challenges they face, it may not be immediately apparent that someone you know is struggling with hearing loss. Even if you are experiencing hearing loss, you may not know it: hearing loss tends to occur gradually, which gives you time to “get used” to the way you hear, even if it is far from normal.
When it comes to hearing loss, knowledge is power. By learning the signs of hearing loss, you will be able to take action in treating it as soon as possible, which brings many benefits to your overall health and well-being.
What are the Signs of Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss tends to occur gradually, over a period of time. It is estimated that people wait an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing until they decide to seek treatment. If you, or someone you love, experience some of the tell-tale signs below, consider getting a hearing test.
You may have a hearing loss if you:
· Often ask people to repeat what they say;
· Have trouble hearing in groups;
· Think others mumble when they speak;
· Fail to hear someone talking behind you;
· Turn up the volume on your TV and car radio;
· Have difficulty understanding phone conversations;
· Have trouble hearing your alarm clock;
· Have difficulty hearing at the movies;
· Dread going to noisy parties and restaurants;
· Are embarrassed to talk openly about not being able to hear;
· Cut out activities you once enjoyed;
· Bluff when talking with friends in a noisy restaurant;
· Feel cut off from your friends, family, and loved ones.
The most common complaint from people with hearing loss is that while they can hear, they find it difficult to understand. Hearing loss makes speech recognition difficult, which is why people with hearing loss tend to avoid social settings. Over time, this social withdrawal could lead to anxiety and depression, two conditions linked with untreated hearing loss.
The Benefits of Recognizing Hearing Loss and Seeking Treatment
Hearing loss, if left untreated, has many negative consequences to your overall health and well-being. By recognizing hearing loss and seeking treatment, you will begin to experience a number of benefits.
Re-connecting with your loved ones
Communication is the foundation of all strong relationships, whether it is your spouse, partner, family members, friends, or colleagues. With hearing loss, we tend to ask our loved ones to repeat themselves, which over time could lead to frustration. At the same time, difficulties with speech recognition could lead to miscommunication. Treating hearing loss reconnects you to your loved ones. Hearing aids, used to treat hearing loss, are designed to provide clear speech signals, helping you stay in touch with your loved ones.
Higher earning power
In a study that analyzed income levels of people with hearing loss (untreated and treated), researchers focused on people with similar employment, marital status, age, gender, and lifestyle. Results showed that “people with moderate to profound hearing loss, who did not use hearing aids, experienced household incomes $5,000 to $6,000 less than their counterparts who did not use hearing aids.” Hearing loss could interfere communication on the job, and if you are struggling to hear, you may have difficulty with productivity and memory problems. It’s in the numbers: by treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids, you stand to have higher earning power.
Better overall health
A number of studies from Johns Hopkins has found a potential link between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk for dementia. Hearing happens in the brain, and when hearing loss is left untreated, your brain must work harder to make sense of muddled sound signals. This could tire out the brain with a heavier cognitive load, which opens up the risk for dementia. In a different study from Japan, researchers found that people who were fitted for hearing aids early on had higher cognitive abilities than those who were not. It’s important to your overall health to address hearing loss!