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There are still many unknowns about hearing loss, but scientists are discovering more about this condition every day. Something we do know: hearing loss is not only widespread but also under-treated on a massive scale.
Hearing loss is more common in older people because it is closely linked to aging. According to studies, one out of every three people over the age of 60, two out of every three people over the age of 70, and four out of every five people over 85 have some hearing loss.
There is also conclusive evidence that is letting hearing loss go untreated increases the risk of several health issues, including stress, depression, and accelerated cognitive decline. Fortunately, research also shows that treating hearing loss can significantly reduce the risk of these and other health issues and significantly improve one’s quality of life.
But if that is the case, why do over three-quarters of adults avoid treating their hearing loss? There is not a single definitive reason; instead, there are several different factors that could influence an individual’s decision to postpone hearing loss treatment.
Why do we avoid taking hearing tests?
Hearing aid technology has advanced dramatically in the last decade, and these devices can indeed be life-changing. The first step to being fitted for hearing aids has a hearing exam. Still, many people put off this vital step–often for years–after first noticing a decline in their hearing. Why?
Hearing loss is difficult to detect. As hearing loss happens gradually, many people do not realize how significant their hearing loss has become. Friends and family may have begun to adapt to the hard-of-hearing person, not even realizing that they are doing so.
Hearing loss is hard to accept. Fear can be a strong motivator, and a hard-of-hearing person may be scared to learn that their hearing isn’t as good as it once was. Alternatively, they may be concerned about the stigma associated with hearing loss and that they may be alone in their struggle. Others might not like the idea of wearing a hearing aid for cosmetic reasons. But they needn’t feel this way–many hearing aids available today are nearly invisible when worn. And perhaps more importantly, the idea that hearing loss needs to be hidden is quickly becoming a relic of the past.
The perils of untreated hearing loss
Although there are many advantages to treating hearing loss, if it is left untreated may have severe physical and mental effects, according to research.
One of the most compelling reasons to seek help with hearing loss is the fact that this condition, when untreated, has been linked to diminished cognitive function. A study at Johns Hopkins recently found that cognitive decline was 41 percent greater in seniors with hearing loss. There are two primary reasons for this: the first is that hearing loss can cause increased isolation and loneliness, which increases the risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The second is that the brain works to understand degraded speech signals and has less energy to perform other tasks. Hence, things like memory and comprehension begin to suffer.
Hearing loss that is not handled may also hurt personal relationships. When contact between those with hearing loss and their friends and family becomes more complex, many people with hearing loss withdraw from social interactions, creating even more distance between themselves and others around them.
Finally, untreated hearing loss has been shown to damage overall health and well-being and increase the risk of falls and accidents.
Time to schedule a hearing test
Hearing loss is treatable. Evidence suggests that people who use hearing aids early in their hearing loss experience significant benefits. Hearing aids can reduce mental exhaustion, reduce feelings of social isolation and depression, enhance memory, concentration, and focus, and improve relationships and social lives by making it easier for the brain to perceive and understand sounds. They’ve also been shown to improve mobility and lower the home’s risk of falls and injuries.
If you’re hesitant about going on your own, enlist the support of a friend or family member. There’s no need to put off treating your hearing loss because there are so many advantages to doing so. Contact us today to set up an appointment!