Did you know that hearing loss is the third most common (chronic) medical condition that older adults experience? Though it is common, only 1 in 5 people seek treatment for their hearing loss; highlighting how undertreated impaired hearing is. Untreated symptoms can have multifaceted effects on everyday life including straining communication, relationships, social life, work performance, and overall health. It is important to intervene early and seek hearing loss treatment which not only transforms hearing health but also quality of life. There are effective hearing solutions that enable people to live full and active lives.
Age Related Hearing Loss is Often Undertreated
Age is the strongest indicator of hearing loss. The risk of developing hearing loss increases with age:
- 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss.
- 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss.
Also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss can be caused by a few factors. This includes the cumulative impact of noise exposure, changes that may happen to the ear(s) over time, and existing medical conditions which also impact older adults disproportionately. Existing medical conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and hypertension can increase the risk of developing hearing loss.
Even though hearing loss is pervasive, it is often undertreated. Studies have shown that hearing loss tends to be ignored. This includes a recent study conducted by the American-Speech- Language-Hearing Association. Researchers polled 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.
This data highlights that hearing health is not prioritized and that symptoms are often ignored even when experienced for quite some time. It is important to understand that untreated hearing loss can increase a number of health risks – depressive symptoms, cognitive decline, falls – and affect daily life.
Recognizing Signs of Hearing Loss
It takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss symptoms. Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so people may not initially be aware of their symptoms. Being able to recognize early signs of hearing loss can better help you identify what you are experiencing, nudging you to intervene by seeking treatment. Common signs include:
- Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing like noise that only you can hear.
- Sounds are muffled or distorted.
- Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise (restaurants for example).
- Asking others to speak louder, slower, or repeat what they said.
- Struggling to hear over the phone.
- Lip reading to help identify individual words.
- Responding with “huh” or “what”.
- Pretending to hear to get through a conversation.
- Increasing the volume on the TV, phone, and other electronic devices.
- Moving to a quieter space to hear more clearly.
- Being able to hear better out of one ear compared to the other.
- Feeling fatigued after conversations and social interactions.
These symptoms can be mild to more profound, really affecting one’s capacity to engage in conversation. To cope, people often avoid conversations as much as possible which includes spending less time with loved ones as well as skipping out on social activities. Social withdrawal is another sign of hearing loss, impacting mental health and wellness.
Diagnosing & Treating Hearing Loss
The first step towards treating hearing loss is to get your hearing health evaluated. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss as well as the degree of impairment you are experiencing. Fortunately, there are effective ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplogy, and process speech as well as sound. This provides the ears and brain with ample support, making it easier to hear and process sound. Hearing aids alleviate symptoms and allow people to hear with greater ease in everyday environments. Treating hearing loss strengthens communication, relationships, social life, adn overall health.
Prioritize your hearing health today by scheduling an appointment for a hearing consultation!