When was the last time you had your hearing checked? If you are like many Americans, you had annual hearing exams as a child in school, but haven’t been monitoring your hearing health for the past several decades.
And while it’s great that our educational system has procedures in place to catch hearing complications early in life, we’re culturally shooting ourselves in the foot by not prioritizing hearing health throughout the lifespan.
So at your next yearly physical, talk about your hearing health with your physician.
Hearing health and age
It’s almost illogical to center hearing health checks at the early stages of our lifespan when it’s primarily a concern for older folks. People with hearing loss are disproportionately older, as one in three people over the age of 65 has hearing loss. That number rises exponentially as we enter our 70s and 80s.
This is because age itself damages the sensitive and important cells of the inner ear. Over time, they begin to decay, like many cells in our bodies. However, they are non-regenerative, which means that they do not repair themselves or reproduce. Instead, once we lose these cells, we also lose access to our healthy hearing.
Known as stereocilia, these cells sit in the inner ear and receive the noise of the world around us. Then, they transform this noise into electrical signals, or sound information, that gets sent to the brain. In our brain’s processing centers, this information is translated into language and meaning.
But as the number of these cells decline, the less noise we are able to collect and the result is less sound information making its way to our brain. We hear less, typically losing access to higher frequencies first.
Symptoms of hearing loss
This loss of hearing specific frequencies is why the early signs of hearing loss are so subtle. At its earliest arrival, people are often unaware that they are even experiencing hearing loss. Speech clarity will become an issue and you might find yourself asking ‘what?’ more than usual. Telephone conversations, without the visual cues, can become frustrating. You might need to turn on the closed captioning function of your television to catch dialogue in your favorite television shows and films.
These subdued early signs happen so slowly that we often unconsciously adapt without recognizing that hearing loss is at play. We avoid conversations and withdraw into ourselves, prompting experiences of depression and social isolation.
In many cases, it is friends and family who notice changes in behavior before we do.
Prioritize hearing health
You can anticipate changes to your hearing health by prioritizing your hearing care and choosing regular consultations. Experts agree that we should all schedule a hearing exam every three years after the age of 50. That way, changes in the way we hear won’t come as a surprise and we’ll be prepared and knowledgeable about which steps to take when hearing loss does enter the picture.
After the age of 65, most of us should have an annual hearing exam.
The risks of avoiding hearing exams
Unfortunately, most people wait to treat hearing loss until it has become an almost insurmountable problem in their lives. On average, hearing aid wearers have suffered with hearing loss for almost a decade before investing in a solution.
Because we are so adaptable, avoiding our hearing reality can lead to unexpected outcomes. Relationships suffer when hearing loss becomes unmanageable, we can lose opportunities for connection and we even put ourselves at greater risk of a dementia diagnosis.
Treating hearing loss helps
And although many forms of hearing loss are irreversible, it is a highly treatable condition. From hearing aids to cochlear implants, choosing to intervene in hearing loss is a way to recapture or reclaim your most vibrant life.
The vast majority of people who wear hearing aids are highly satisfied with their investment and would recommend them to a friend with a similar problem.
Schedule a hearing consultation today
If you think that hearing loss is making an impact in your life or if you recently celebrated a 50th+ birthday, schedule a hearing consultation today. Our team of highly trained professionals can guide you comfortably through a hearing exam. We’ll work together to create a plan that ensures your healthiest hearing future possible.