As an invisible condition that occurs gradually, hearing loss is difficult to recognize. Most of us don’t pay much attention to our hearing as it is, but it is one of the fastest senses we have and unlike all of our other senses, it is always on. Perhaps for this reason, we tend to take it for granted. If our hearing abilities change, it is not often the first thing we would point to when it radiates to other areas of our life. For example, if you can’t hear the volume on the TV, you’d just turn it up, right? Or, if you mishear or misunderstand someone in conversation, you’d just ask them to repeat themselves. These small accommodations are actually signs that point to a potential hearing loss, especially if they become regular practices. The problem is, because hearing loss does happen slowly and gradually, and we naturally make accommodations for ourselves, we may not be aware that it is happening.
When Should I Start Paying Attention to Hearing Health?
As the third most common medical condition in the US, approximately 48 million Americans experience some form of hearing loss. Approximately 60% of the workforce experiences some degree of hearing loss, as well as 60% of veterans returning from combat zones. While hearing loss affects people of all ages, it is most commonly found among populations of older Americans: one in three people age 65 or older and 50% of people age 75 or older experience some degree of hearing loss. Because hearing loss is most prevalent among older Americans, we recommend that people commit to an annual hearing test at the age of 50. While most young people undergo hearing tests as a part of physical exams for school, many of us stop the practice when we turn 18 and graduate from high school. For younger Americans, hearing loss rates are rising due to exposure to loud noise, particularly through the use of earbuds. If you are under the age of 50 and are concerned about your hearing health, by all means, schedule an annual hearing exam with us at one of our Ear to Hear locations in Florida. Hearing loss is not a self-diagnosable condition. While people may begin to notice changes in their hearing, the exact type, degree, and configuration of hearing loss is only diagnosable by a hearing health professional through a hearing exam. But before you decide to take a hearing exam, how do you recognize the signs of hearing loss?
Common Signs of Hearing Loss
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), if you answer yes to the following questions, you may be experiencing a hearing loss.
- Often ask people to repeat what they say?
- Have trouble hearing in groups?
- Think others mumble?
- Fail to hear someone talking from behind you?
- Turn up the volume on the TV or car radio?
- Have difficulty on the phone?
- Have trouble hearing your alarm clock?
- Have difficulty hearing at the movies
- Dread going to noisy parties and restaurants?
- Embarrassed to talk openly about not being able to hear?
- Cutting out activities that you used to love but have become painful because you cannot join in fully anymore?
- Afraid to reveal your hearing loss at work in case it jeopardizes your job and your supervisor and coworkers may see you as less competent?
- Bluffing when out with friends in noisy restaurants?
- Feeling cut off from your young children because you cannot hear their high-pitched voices?
- Feeling strained at family events because so many people are talking at once?
What happens if I don't treat my hearing loss?
With the above scenarios, there are so many factors that could influence your hearing. For this reason, the most clear-cut way to know for sure is to schedule a hearing exam with us at one of our many Florida Ear to Hear locations. The HLAA estimates that people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing abilities to the time they decide to take a hearing exam. Leaving hearing loss, even for a year or two, could bring many negative consequences to your overall health and well-being. As a medical condition, hearing loss affects your brain function and cognitive abilities, thus creating conditions that increase the risk for developing dementia. In terms of mental health, hearing loss causes people to withdraw socially, due to difficulties with communication. Over time, this could cause social isolation, leading to depression, anxiety, and stress.
Listen to Your Loved One
ClChances are, your loved one has already noticed changes in their hearing. Hearing loss can be a scary and isolating experience, so your loved one may feel relief that you’ve brought it up. Even if they are defensive at first, remain patient and listen to your loved one when they talk. Ask open-ended questions so that they feel comfortable sharing their experience about hearing loss.
Encourage Your Loved One to Take a Hearing Test
After listening to their experience, gently encourage your loved one to take a hearing test. Bring up the research you’ve done on hearing loss and discuss the many different consequences of untreated hearing loss. For example, Johns Hopkins University has conducted a series of studies that show the link between untreated hearing loss and a higher risk for developing dementia. Untreated hearing loss could lead to an increased risk for falls and accidents, since we depend on our sense of hearing to keep us safe. Most importantly, hearing loss affects our relationships with each other. Your concern shows your investment in your relationship with your loved one. Encouraging them to take a hearing test is the first step to treating a hearing loss that could otherwise create a rift in your relationship. Offer your loved one support as they journey to better hearing health.