If you are concerned you have hearing loss, remember, you are not alone. Hearing loss affects 48 million people in just the US. While it is a condition commonly thought of to only afflict older adults, it can affect anyone of any age. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that one in every six to eight middle and high school students (aged 12–19 years) has measurable hearing loss likely resulting from excessive noise exposure. This is often believed to be the result of listening to headphones at a dangerous volume but could also be attributed to several other factors.
What is important to understand is that if you do have hearing loss, it is not going away. 90% of hearing aid cases are sensorineural meaning they are due to irreparable nerve and cell damage within the inner ear. This is the part of the ear which sends sound to the brain. It’s important to take even a suspected case of hearing loss seriously because it can have serious implications if ignored. Think of treating hearing loss as an investment if your health.
The Dangers of Untreated Hearing Loss
Part of the problem is that hearing loss is difficult to self-diagnose – especially on its onset. Hearing loss starts subtly and progresses gradually over time. Your brain attempts to compensate for the loss. On average it takes people 7 to 10 years from the time they suspect they have a hearing issue to take action. By this point many of the devastating side effects of hearing loss have already taken hold. Some of the most common side effects of hearing loss include:
Impact on your relationships: When you struggle to hear parts of words it can take a toll on how you communicate with others. This includes relationships with friends, family and even your significant other. Your relationships are often the corner stone of mental health and as small talk, inside jokes and casual banter erode due to hearing loss based miscommunication you may feel yourself drifting further away from those you love the most.
Loneliness, depression and social isolation: When your relationships are affected it’s common to feel depressed. It’s also important to not the difference between social isolation and loneliness. You can feel lonely even around people and you may find that hearing loss leaves you feeling left out of conversations. As social situations continue to wear on you, it’s common to start to avoid them all together, furthering social isolation.
Cognitive decline: When you are less stimulated by social interactions your mind can suffer. An active social life is a major component of cognitive health. Others stimulate you, help you to feel a part of something larger than yourself and encourage you to try new things, stay active and get the most out of life. The greater the degree of hearing loss you have, the greater the risk of cognitive decline leading to dementia.
An impact on your finances: Perhaps one of the greatest factors which keeps people from addressing their hearing loss is the suspected cost of treatment. It’s important to understand for perspective the impact of hearing loss on your professional success. When you struggle to hear it often affects your work. Constant communication in offices and in manual labor settings can lead to constant mistakes, which can overtime affect your chances of receiving raises and promotions. The Better Hearing Institute reports that on average people with untreated hearing loss make $30,000 less annually than those with normal hearing or actively treating their hearing loss.
The Benefits Of Hearing Aids
The most common treatment for hearing loss are hearing aids. These tiny electronic devices fit in or around the ear and can be digitally programed to amplify and enhance only the sounds you need to hear. This can allow you to connect to the people in your life who matter most, stay active, stay connected and even excel in your professional career. While hearing aids have been found to significantly reduce negative symptoms connected to hearing loss study’s find that only 20% of those who can benefit from them have ever tried them. Don’t be part of this statistic! Invest in the quality of your life by investing in your hearing health! Start by scheduling a hearing exam today!