Hearing loss is one of the most common medical conditions that older adults experience. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 1 in 3 adults between the ages of 65-74 has hearing loss. Additionally, half of all adults ages 75 and older have hearing loss as well. Though hearing loss is pervasive among older people, the NIDCD estimates that only one-third of people who could benefit from treatment, actually receive it. Why is hearing loss so undertreated? What is the impact of untreated hearing loss? And what are the first steps you can take to address hearing loss? These important questions can provide a greater understanding of hearing loss and the importance of early treatment.
How Untreated is Hearing Loss?
Recent studies highlight widespread inaction on hearing loss. The American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association recently published a study that examined the scope of untreated hearing loss. Researchers polled nearly 2,500 adults and discovered that:
- While only 2 in 10 adults have had their hearing checked in the last 5 years, 6 in 10 adults have had their vision evaluated.
- More than 51% of people reported experiencing hearing issues but only 11% of those people have sought out treatment.
- 78% of people with hearing issues have been experiencing them for 1 or more years, and over 35% have experienced hearing challenges for 5 or more years.
Findings from this study support patterns that reveal how common experiencing hearing health changes are as well as the lack of action when it comes to addressing these changes. You may be wondering why there is such a delay in treatment.
Understanding Why Hearing Loss is Underdiagnosed
Feedback provided in studies on the undertreatment of hearing loss highlight a few reasons that help us understand why hearing loss is so underdiagnosed. This includes:
- Misconceptions about hearing loss: there are numerous misconceptions people have about hearing loss that contribute to why people do not seek treatment right away. This includes thinking that hearing loss is not a serious condition, because you can still hear then it’s not so bad, if people speak louder that solves the problem etc. These misconceptions misinform people about the seriousness of this medical condition. Hearing loss not only impacts hearing but various facets of daily life: work, relationships, social engagement, and overall health.
- The stigma associated with having impaired hearing: people can feel embarrassed about experiencing issues with hearing which prevents them from seeking treatment. People often imagine hearing aids as bulky and outdated devices that they do not want to wear, another misconception.
Hearing loss that remains untreated can worsen the impairment, producing major effects that can take a toll: strained communication, relationships, deteriorating social life and increased health risks. Recognizing the signs of hearing loss and intervening as early as possible can profoundly transform your health.
Recognizing Early Signs of Hearing Loss
There are numerous signs of hearing loss, Symptoms make it challenging to hear and participate in conversations. Early signs to look out for include:
- Struggling to keep up with conversations, especially in places with background noise.
- Missing parts of a conversation, pretending to hear.
- Frequently asking others to repeat something they’ve said or to speak louder.
- Sounds are distorted, making it challenging to identify individual words.
- Tinnitus is a buzzing or ringing-like noise you can hear in one or both ears.
- Turning up the volume on electronic devices like your TV or phone.
- Feeling fatigued after having conversations.
- Lip reading to distinguish individual words.
These symptoms can be experienced from mild to severe depending on the degree of hearing loss in each ear. You may think that because you can still hear, albeit not as well, your hearing loss is minor. But impairment left untreated can worsen over time so it is important to seek treatment as early as possible.
Prioritize Hearing Health
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. This appointment involves having your hearing evaluated which identifies any hearing loss. Our specialists take the time to assess your hearing needs and recommend effective treatment options. Treating your hearing loss can profoundly transform your hearing health and daily life.