Hearing loss is a common health issue for older people. It effects over 30% of people over the age of 65. That rate only increases with age, up to one in two people, yet many are reluctant to get treatment. That’s concerning because untreated hearing loss can result in other serious health issues.
Why Hearing Loss Often Goes Untreated
Hearing loss often goes undetected because it progresses slowly. You may not notice the incremental changes because you simply adjust things to compensate for the loss. You turn the TV louder, raise the volume on your phone, and ask people to repeat themselves.
That being said, while you don’t notice the changes, other people often do. If your friends or family mention these changes, take note.
Since hearing loss is associated with aging, people often assume it’s just a natural part of the aging process and nothing to worry about. While that’s true, it doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. Hearing loss is its own concern. It can also be a symptom of other health issues such as infections, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Proper treatment for hearing loss can prevent further loss.
Emotional and Cognitive Well-Being
The saddest part of ignoring loss are all the other complications that can result.
- Social isolation You may start to isolate yourself due to embarrassment or frustration caused by hearing loss.
- Cognitive decline If there is one thing that can prompt someone to take hearing loss seriously, it’s this. Hearing loss can accelerate cognitive decline and increase the risk of dementia. The greater the loss, the greater the level of cognitive decline.
- Missed connections You know whose voices are the hardest to hear? Children’s. Their softer, higher pitched tones are typically very difficult to hear if you have hearing loss. Add children’s mispronunciations, shyness, and tendency to move around when they’re talking and you end up with a mish-mash of sound that doesn’t get through.
Some children are very patient and will repeat themselves for their grandparents. Others are too active—as soon as they say something, they’re on the next thing. Even the most patient children will sometimes say, “Never mind,” when asked to repeat themselves.
What’s Involved in a Hearing Test
A hearing test is pretty straightforward. It doesn’t hurt, and it’s not scary. A hearing test typically:
- takes 30-60 minutes
- involves listening to different sounds through while wearing headphones
- can be done by your primary care physician or…..
- can be done by an audiologist, a doctor that specializes in hearing
- may result in the recommendation to be fitted for hearing aids
Don’t Be Embarrassed About Wearing Hearing Aids
It’s not easy to acknowledge that our bodies don’t operate the way they once did. A lot of people feel embarrassed at the idea of wearing hearing aids. They think it makes them look weak, or unattractive.
Here’s the irony of not getting hearing aids if you need them. If you don’t get needed hearing aids, anyone close to you will be able to tell anyway. The worst thing is, once people recognize that you’re not picking up all the parts of the conversation, they will start to treat you differently.
Sometimes, they will talk louder. Other times, they will “talk around” you. They’ll have half the conversation out of your hearing range, and raise their voices when they think it’s relevant to you. Sure, sometimes people take the time to talk more slowly and make sure you can see their facial expressions. But people get busy and they get stressed, so they don’t always do that. You end up getting left out of the conversation and having other people decide what’s appropriate for you to hear.
Don’t let embarrassment or pride leave you out of the life that’s happening around you.
Why Hearing Aids Aren’t as Bad as You Think
When you think about wearing a hearing aid, you may have an outdated notion of what they look like and how they operate. Modern hearing aids are:
- smaller and less obvious than earlier versions
- more attractive than those in the past (some even come in fashionable colors)
- less glitchy—they are far less likely to have feedback issues
You do need some time to get used to new hearing aids. Be sure to ask a lot of questions of your audiologist. You want to make sure they fit comfortably.
How Often Should I Get My Hearing Tested
You should be advised by your doctor to have a hearing test once every ten years before the age of 50 and once every three years after that. Unfortunately, your doctor may not encourage you to get a hearing test, even if you show signs of hearing loss—all doctors aren’t equally vigilant. As with any other health issue, you need to be your own best advocate. Consider bringing someone to your medical visits to help you advocate for the best care.
What You Gain When You Address Your Hearing Loss
There is a silver lining in all of this. Once you address your hearing issues with your doctor, you’ll be gaining something back. You’ll get to hear what you’ve been missing. Maybe not all of it, but a good portion.
You may have not even noticed that you weren’t hearing the birds chirping outside your window. You’ll be back in the conversations and be able to hear children’s voices again. You’ll even be safer from accidents.
Don’t wait. Make an appointment today to get your hearing checked.
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