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Hearing loss is very common affecting approximately 48 million people in the U.S. and 477 million people worldwide. It is estimated that one third of Americans between ages 65 and 74 and almost half of those over age 75 live with hearing loss. While hearing loss is the third most chronic health condition facing seniors only 20% of people whose life could be improved by treatment seek it out. This is alarming because the health risks associated with untreated hearing loss have serious implications for people’s physical and mental health. If people can understand the importance of treating hearing loss there may be more incentive to seek out help. As of now most people living with hearing loss put off treatment until they can not hear in even the most ideal situations and by then people’ hearing loss has become that much more acute. The sooner people treat their hearing loss the better.
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis is one of the most common ailments affecting the elderly. There are many causes of age-related hearing loss but the most common cause is the natural breakdown of the tiny hair cells called cilia that collect sound information and send it to the brain to process. While sound still reaches the inner ear, it cannot send the signal to the brain. This is a form of hearing loss called sensorineural hearing loss. While hearing aids can help amplify the sounds lost by sensorineural hearing loss this type of loss can never be completely restored. Even so the sooner you treat your age-related hearing loss the sooner the better. When someone is living with age related hearing loss their quality of life starts to suffer as people struggle to communicate to their loved ones, friends and co-workers.
Impact of Hearing Loss
When people live with untreated hearing loss their brains strain to fill in the gaps in conversation. It is often certain tones and frequencies that go first with hearing loss leaving holes in sound that your brain must compensate for. This strains your cognitive functions and makes simple social interactions much more exhausting. This can also make social interaction much less appealing for someone with untreated hearing loss, often leading to anxiety, depression and social isolation. For seniors, extended social isolation can be deadly. Some of the other impacts on the health of people living with untreated hearing loss include headaches, high blood pressure and muscle tension due to stress. Some studies have even linked untreated hearing loss with the onset of dementia as your brain struggles to hear.
Benefits of Treatment
It is important to be on top of potential hearing loss and not let it progress to a point where it is negatively affecting your life. Admitting you have a hearing loss is the first step. If you are not sure, then it can never hurt to test your hearing. Even if you don’t suspect you have a hearing loss it is a safe bet to have your hearing checked annually before the loss has the chance to creep up on you. Some of the benefits of treating hearing loss are just too valuable to ignore. Some of the benefits include:
Improved Personal Safety and Independence: When you can’t hear the world around you, you make your self at a higher risk for accidents. A simple walk down the street can be full of danger when you can’t hear warning sounds or where they are coming from. This all creates a lack of independence and autonomy for someone with untreated hearing loss
Higher Earning Power: When you can communicate clearly at work and follow conversations during meetings your work will be easier, less stressful and more successful.
Emotional Well-Being: When you treat your hearing loss you make it easier to communicate with the ones you love. Your friendships improve, and your self esteem can heal from a life of social withdraw. You no longer have to feel anxious about not being able to follow conversation in social situations. You will be able to hold your own once again.
If you suspect you are living with a hearing loss don’t put it off longer than you need to. Today is a great day to start your journey towards healthy hearing.