An estimated 1 in 6 people have some degree of hearing loss. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions that people live with today. You likely know someone who has impaired hearing or maybe you also experience hearing challenges. Though hearing loss is pervasive, it is often underdiagnosed. It takes an average of 7 years for a person to address hearing loss from the time they start experiencing symptoms.
Acknowledging the reality of hearing loss can be tough for a variety of reasons. Realizing that you are experiencing health changes may be overwhelming and there is still a stigma associated with hearing loss that can be difficult to deal with. But treating hearing loss can transform your health and wellness in ways that profoundly enhance your quality of life. This starts with recognizing early signs of hearing loss and taking action.
Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss
It is often assumed that the impact of hearing loss is only on hearing. But the hearing loss, reducing one’s capacity to perceive and process sound, actually produces multifaceted effects. If left untreated, hearing loss can contribute to:
- Strained communication: hearing loss creates numerous symptoms that make it hard to navigate conversations. This includes tinnitus (ringing in the ears), sounds/speech are distorted, hearing individual words is difficult, etc. These symptoms, which can be mild to severe, prevent people from easily hearing and participating in conversations. People with hearing loss may ask others to repeat themselves, lip read to distinguish words, pretend to hear, miss words or part of a conversation, etc. This can contribute to miscommunication and unpleasant interactions.
- Social withdrawal: communication is essential for sustaining relationships, managing work responsibilities, and social engagement. Strained communication can often cause people to avoid conversations as much as possible. This results in spending less time with others and missing out on social activities. Social withdrawal produces depressive symptoms like loneliness, stress, and isolation.
- Increased health risks: extensive research shows that unrated hearing loss increases health risks including cognitive decline, depression, and falls.
These significant effects of untreated hearing loss can take a toll on relationships, health, and well-being. Intervening as early as possible and taking action to address hearing loss can prevent these outcomes.
Recognizing Early Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by several factors including exposure to loud noise, existing medical conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and aging. It often develops slowly which means that it can take quite some time to notice changes to your hearing health. Being able to recognize symptoms can help you identify these changes and address them early. Common symptoms include:
- Tinnitus: a ringing like noise in one or both ears
- Sounds are muffled or slurred
- Frequently asking others to repeat something they’ve said or to speak louder
- Finding it hard to hear in environments with background noise
- Increasing the volume on the TV and/or other electronic devices
- Being able to hear more clearly out of one ear compared to the other
- Lip reading to help identify words
- Missing words or parts of a conversation
- Feeling exhausted after interacting with others
These symptoms can be mild to severe depending on the degree of hearing loss present. Addressing hearing loss as early as possible can best help you transition into stronger hearing health with greater ease.
What to Expect from Treatment
Understanding what you can expect from treating hearing loss can help alleviate any anxiety or stress you may feel about this process. The first step is having your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacity in each ear. This process identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment that establishes your hearing needs. Your hearing healthcare provider is then able to make recommendations for treatment options that will effectively meet those needs, increasing your hearing capacity.
Hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids – instruments equipped with innovative technology that processes sound. Hearing aids provide ample support, making it easier to detect, process, and understand speech and sound. This drastically improves communication, relationships, social life, and overall health. To learn more about this process and to schedule a hearing consultation appointment, contact us today.