When hearing loss first sets in the person who may have the most trouble admitting it is you. Most people on average wait seven to ten years from the time they suspect they have a hearing loss to finally seek treatment. There are many reasons why people put off treatment even though deep down they know they have a hearing issue, however it’s important to understand the gravity of putting off hearing loss. Hearing loss is not just an ear issue, but has far reaching complications, which start with communication barriers and reduced audio awareness in the world and can escalate into a slew of health complications. The first step in addressing potential health issues affecting the quality of your life is acknowledging the reality of hearing loss.
Why we avoid confronting hearing loss
There are several reasons why people put off treating their hearing loss. For many, the biggest reason is that they don’t know they have it. Hearing loss often develops slowly over time. At first you may only loose subtle tones and pitches. It’s typical to struggle to detect whispers, the voice of small children, the wind blowing the leaves in the trees or the birds chirping. Often one of the first clues that you have an issue is when someone refers to a sound and you just can’t hear it.
Denial of Hearing Loss
However, others may suspect they have hearing loss for years and just don’t think it’s severe enough to treat. Denial is a strong emotion, and many convince themselves that they don’t have a problem, despite constant misunderstandings between people throughout their life. It’s common to think “my hearing isn’t bad enough” or treating hearing loss will make me seem “old.” In reality, it’s important to examine the social concept of what people think of as “old”. If you seem distracted and confused during conversation and struggle to hear what people are saying it may make you seem aged, even if you have hearing loss in your late 40’s or 50’s.
The Gravity of Hearing Loss
As hearing loss progresses it’s common to be harder to. Hear certain consonants first. Often s,h,f,b,v are the first to go and difficult to decipher from one another. This makes conversation just a little bit more challenging as you struggle throughout to fill in the blanks your brain just can’t receive. This early stage of hearing loss is often high frequency, especially in the case of hearing loss caused by noise or old age and is often noticed when it becomes difficult to understand what people are saying even in the ideal listening situations. This constant strain in relationships can take a toll on even what may seem like the strongest of relationships, leaving people with unaddressed hearing loss with feelings of loneliness, depression, and social anxiety. This can make previously social people less inclined to go out, stay active, pursue their hobbies and enjoy the life they had previously loved. In addition, when the brain cannot receive certain sounds, the cells devoted to processing these sounds can start to die. This has been attributed to brain shrinkage, cognitive decline a direct correlation with an increased risk of dementia.
The prevalence of hearing loss
According to the National Institutes of Health, around 15%, or 37.5 million, American adults over the age of 18 report trouble hearing. Hearing loss can occur at any age, due to exposure to loud sound, impact to the head, infection or ototoxic chemicals or medications. However, the risk of hearing loss goes up significantly by the age of 60. One in three people over 65 struggle with hearing issues while that number jumps to one in two by 75.
Find the opportunity
The good news is that by admitting you have a problem, it suddenly sets you free to search for a soloution. While most cases of hearing loss are irreversible the condition is completely treatable. The most common treatment are hearing aids – tiny electronic devices which fit inside your ear or around it and amplify the sounds you need to hear based on an individualized hearing exam. With hearing aids worn daily, you can start to rebuild relationships and self-confidence as well. Eventually you won’t think twice about going out to a busy store, or even a crowded restaurant or party, because with modifications in hearing technology you can feel confident and be able to communicate clearly.