Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition among older adults. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly one in every eight people have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. This amounts to over 40 million people who are navigating impaired hearing on a daily basis. Though this is a prevalent medical condition, hearing loss often happens gradually over a longer period of time. This results in millions of people who may be unaware of the incremental changes happening to their hearing. Due to this, hearing loss can be easily overlooked or ignored for quite some time which can worsen the impairment. It is critical to protect your hearing healthy by being aware of hearing loss symptoms and taking a test as soon as you experience any of them!
There are various factors that can contribute to the development of hearing loss including:
- Existing medical conditions: people with health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, and obesity have an increased risk of hearing loss.
- Environmental exposure to loud noise: which may be experienced in the workplace, sporting events, concerts etc. can damage the hair cells in the inner ear which help the brain process sound.
- Genetic history: any history of hearing loss in your family can contribute to hearing loss because you can inherit mutated genes that impact the auditory system.
These factors can cause damage to the bones, hair cells, fluid levels etc. that are all part of how we hear. This can cause a range of symptoms including the following:
- Increasing volume on electronic devices (TV, speaker, phone)
- Difficulty following conversation
- Sounds are muffled making it challenging to hear distinct words
- Preferring one ear over the other
- Tinnitus which is a ringing or buzzing sound in one or both ears
- Needing to move to a quieter area to have a conversation
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder and/or quieter
Experiencing these symptoms regularly can cause stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Engaging with others requires more work and can be exhausting. This can lead to social withdrawal and in addition to strained communication, this strains relationships. If left untreated, hearing loss can impact your mental and emotional health which takes a toll on overall health. It is incredibly important to address hearing loss as soon as you detect any of these symptoms!
Addressing Hearing Loss
Treating your hearing loss is relatively simple! The first step is to schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Hearing tests involve a painless and efficient process that simply require you to respond to sounds played at different frequencies. You are guided through varying sounds by a hearing healthcare specialist who records your responses to the stimuli. This determines any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you may have. After the test, the hearing healthcare expert will review your results with you and discuss best treatment options.
Hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids which are electronic devices designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. These devices significantly increase one’s ability to hear in all types of environments. Hearing aids can be customized to meet your specific hearing needs and lifestyle, allowing them to easily integrate in your daily life. Hearing aids can drastically improve your quality of life by:
- Enhancing communication: with an increased ability to hear, you are able to engage in conversations with greater ease. Hearing aids alleviate the stressful symptoms that often cause miscommunication and unpleasant encounters. With hearing aids, you no longer are missing out on parts of the conversation and can easily hear and process information being shared.
- Boosting confidence: being able to fully participate in conversations and activities without having to rely on others can boost confidence and sense of independence. You are able to perform daily tasks on your own and without frustration and spend quality time with others.
- Improving overall health: enhanced communication and feeling reenergized is great for your mental and physical health. Being able to do the things you love, being social, and active supports your well-being and holistic health!