Though hearing loss is one of the most common medical conditions in the US (third after heart disease and arthritis), it is often undertreated and undiagnosed. In part, this is due to the fact that it is an invisible condition.
Hearing loss affects 20% of the American population, from children to adults. It is most commonly found among older Americans, with a third of people over 65 and 50% of people over 75 experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
Chances are, you or someone you know may currently be experiencing some degree of hearing loss – but you may not at first recognize it as such. Hearing loss, if left untreated, affects many different areas of one’s life. Here are a few common signs of hearing loss and how they may affect your daily life.
What? Could You Repeat That?
With hearing loss, speech recognition becomes a challenge. For some, it may sound like everyone is mumbling. You may find yourself asking people to repeat what they’ve just said or to speak up. For higher degrees of hearing loss, it may become difficult to follow a conversation with multiple speakers or to have conversations in noisy places, such as restaurants.
Spatial Awareness & Environmental Sounds
With normal hearing, our brains take in audio information from both sides of our heads. This is known as binaural hearing. Taking in environmental sounds from both sides gives us a fuller picture of sound. With hearing loss, it becomes difficult to identify the source of sound. People may not catch certain speakers because they are speaking from behind or from the side. Over time, this could lead to a risk to one’s personal safety due to missing alarms or car horns.
Turning Up the Volume
Do you have your TV, stereo, car radio, and phone volumes turned to high – and it is still difficult to hear? This is one of the most common signs of hearing loss. The misconception is that if the volume is turned up, it will be easier to understand sound. The reality, however, is that hearing loss interferes with how your brain processes sound. So, even if the volume is loud, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is clarity. Moreover, if a loved one has asked you repeatedly to please turn down the volume, that is a tell-tale sign you may need to get your hearing checked.
Social Withdrawal & Avoidance
Because of difficulties with communication, people with untreated hearing loss may inadvertently begin to avoid friends, loved ones, and social activities. Combined with an increased risk for anxiety, stress, and depression, untreated hearing loss can be incredibly isolating. Unfortunately, social isolation (especially among older people) is one of the factors that increases the risk for developing dementia. Coincidentally, untreated hearing loss also increases the risk for dementia, due to the brain’s increased cognitive load.
Problems in the Workplace
In the same way communication is important for our interpersonal relationship, it is also important in the workplace Studies have found that people with untreated hearing loss have lower earning power than colleagues with normal hearing and colleagues who treat their hearing loss with the use of hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss has been found to cause memory and concentration issues on the job, thus lowering one’s productivity.
Sound Familiar? Check Out This List
The Hearing Loss Association of America has provided a simple checklist for identifying the signs of hearing loss:
If you answer yes to some of the following questions, you may have a hearing loss. Do you:
- 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?
Get Your Hearing Tested
For people over the age of 50, hearing specialists recommend annual hearing tests. Hearing tests are simple and painless, and if a hearing loss is detected, then it’s better catch it sooner rather than later. Treating hearing loss brings many benefits for one’s overall health and well-being. At Able Hearing, we provide comprehensive hearing tests, hearing aid fittings and tinnitus help. To learn more, contact us today.