Hearing loss is invisible. Unlike noticing you need glasses because your vision is blurry, we can’t see hearing loss, but those around us often notice it. It is hidden in the inappropriate response to a question, in the request for someone to repeat what they said, or in the complaint that people need to stop mumbling and speak up.
In fact, an estimated 48 million Americans over the age 12 have some degree of hearing loss. It’s also the third most common condition in older adults behind arthritis and heart disease.
Recent studies have shown that adults with hearing loss may be up to five times more likely to develop dementia and have an increased risk of falling. People with untreated hearing loss are also at an increased risk of cognitive decline.
Still, after all the studies, only about 20 percent of people with hearing loss seek help. These numbers often bring the term “use it or lose it” to mind. It’s called auditory deprivation. It’s when the brain is deprived of certain sounds so long that it actually starts to forget how to process them.
“Hearing loss is one of the most treatable human conditions there is,” shares Doctor of Audiology Loren Lunsford, Au.D., CCC-A. “It’s important to recognize the issue and treat it as soon as possible for the best results.”
Five signs of hearing loss include:
- It sounds like others mumble or you have to ask others to repeat themselves.
- Trouble hearing on the phone.
- Difficulty following conversations in places with background noise like restaurants or in a crowd.
- Trouble hearing consonants (i.e., words like key may sound like tea.)
- Turning up the TV or radio volume.
Hearing loss can lead to social isolation because it may be just too frustrating or exhausting to follow conversations. There could also be a reduced risk of awareness of things around you, leading to potentially dangerous situations like not hearing the sirens of an ambulance or police car.
“Everyone should get a hearing test,” says Lunsford. “We’re learning more every day about the importance of taking good care of our hearing health, and it’s something you should plan to do on an annual basis.”
New advances in hearing technologies have made it easier than ever to get help for even difficult hearing losses. Even conditions like tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears, which often have some type of hearing loss associated with them, may be helped with hearing devices that target specific frequencies to a patient’s needs.
Today’s technology is light years ahead of technology from just a decade ago. Some new hearing aids even feature cutting edge technology like fall detection alerts, remote programming, auto adjusting settings for different listening environments, and smart phone adjustments just to name a few.
If you or a loved one suspect a hearing problem, the first step is to get your hearing checked from a licensed hearing care professional. They will be able to test your hearing, review your results with you, and give you information on the best next steps.
Lori Woroschuk is director of communications and marketing for Sonus Hearing. To learn more visit www.sonushearing.com.