It is true that over half of everyone in the US aged 75 and above suffers from some degree of disabling hearing loss. This is an astonishing percentage, but not as astonishing as the percentage of those people who need help that actually seek and stick with an appropriate treatment plan. That is barely one out of every five.
To put it another way, barely 20% of all those who should be wearing hearing aids or other analogous treatment for their hearing loss are actually doing so.
All These Lives Impacted
What are the effects of untreated hearing loss? Obviously the ever-present immediate concern is that of physical safety. Crowded public spaces are much more dangerous to navigate when your awareness of your surroundings is limited. And we depend on our hearing to maintain our balance. So even in the home, in our most controlled environments, hearing loss unnecessarily increases the risks of our physical safety. But failure to treat hearing loss threatens so much more than just our physical safety.
Think of how you feel when you are overwhelmed by a crowd or when you feel dizzy. You feel confused and frustrated, creating anxiety. This disorientation and anxiety is compounded by the fact that someone who is losing their hearing is most often not likely to notice it at first. Their sense of hearing is something that they have always taken for granted and depended on intimately. Hearing loss comes on so gradually, it is nearly impossible to notice, especially in controlled environments.
So when this person steps out into the world and contends with background noise, especially when trying to talk with two or more people, they quickly feel fatigued and overwhelmed. This predictably makes them less likely to go out and socialize the next time that the opportunity to do so comes up. Eventually this pattern becomes social withdrawal. And obviously social withdrawal leads to loneliness. And loneliness obviously leads to depression. Depression spirals into a compounding feedback loop, feelings of frustration and resentment reaffirming themselves.
On top of all this, the neural pathways of your brain are literally rewriting themselves in response to your new demands on them. This exhausts you more quickly than ever before and quite literally scrambles your thinking. Feeling out of control, people often behave erratically in an attempt to regain what they perceive as this lost control. This erratic behavior complicates relationships that are already strained.
And why are the relationships already strained? Consider how we build and affirm intimacy and trust in our relationships. Secrets depend on hushed tones, the exact same hushed tones that get lost when someone’s hearing diminishes. Jokes depend on timing and this timing cannot survive repeated requests to repeat yourself. The cadences of conversation are turned inside out. The participants are made to dissect the ways in which they communicate instead of simply communicating.
Prevention is the Most Powerful Remedy
Many people complain that hearing aids require some adapting. And sure. Why wouldn’t they? But consider the thrill and rush of your life returning to you in all its splendid detail. You probably knew that you had been missing the nuance in your grandchild’s laugh. You might have even known that you no longer heard the little wheeze that your old friend punctuated her statements with. But did you know how much you missed them?
Could you imagine how much joy it would bring you to have an old melody you remember from your childhood float toward you from faraway speakers when you least expect it? Or the quiet bubbling of the creek that had faded from your awareness without you noticing? To communicate easily with your loved ones again without any strain.
While it is true that over half of people aged 75 and above live with disabling hearing loss, it is also true that hearing loss is so common in the US that only 1/3 of those who live with it are 65 or older.
It is never too late to take the initiative and commit to keeping up with your hearing health. Because as we’ve seen, your hearing health significantly impacts the potential of your overall health, and consequently your quality of life. There is no way to guarantee that you know exactly how well your hearing is holding up other than making an appointment with one of our trained specialists today.