“I think you might have hearing loss.” None of us wants to hear those words, yet for many people, that’s the first tangible sign that they’re beginning to have hearing issues. We can’t hear what we can’t hear, and it’s often somebody else who first notices our hearing loss.
While about 1.7 out of 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss, most people with hearing loss develop it later in life. Among those aged 60–69, about one-third have hearing loss. By age 70 and above, about two-thirds of people have it. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting it will become a reality for most of us at some point, if we only live long enough!
Hearing Loss Is Undertreated
Despite the prevalence of hearing loss among older adults, it is surprisingly undertreated. Only one out of five people who need hearing aids is actually wearing them, and, on average, people tend to wait seven years from the time they notice a hearing loss to the time they schedule a hearing test and seek treatment.
There are plenty of common excuses about why people don’t seek treatment for hearing loss. Many say they don’t want to “feel old,” or that they can hear “just fine” under the right circumstances. Some cite the cost of hearing aids as a reason to put off treatment, while others say they’re waiting for their hearing loss to worsen before they start wearing hearing aids.
Unfortunately, none of these excuses hold water. Treating hearing loss is not about resigning ourselves to old age, but about maintaining the lifestyle we’re used to in spite of our hearing loss. If we can hear fine under some circumstances but not others, we’re limiting the scope of our lives and confining ourselves to only a few conversational opportunities (not to mention that untreated hearing loss tends to make us feel less confident in our ability to navigate the world outside our homes). While hearing aids are a significant expense, there are financing options available for most people. And if we put off treatment until our hearing becomes “really bad,” we are likely to experience many of the negative consequences that untreated hearing loss can bring with it.
When to Seek Treatment for Hearing Loss
Rather than trying to gauge the state of our hearing on our own, it is much better to have our hearing tested regularly. The Better Hearing Institute and The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), both non-profit organizations, recommend getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years thereafter. Those in higher-risk professions or with a medical history indicating a higher risk of hearing loss should be tested even more frequently.
Regular hearing tests serve a number of functions.
- They allow you to catch hearing loss early, before it becomes so significant that it requires treatment. If your hearing test shows that you have minor hearing loss, you can make some lifestyle adjustments to help prevent further hearing loss.
- They establish a baseline hearing ability, and help track whether your hearing ability holds steady, or diminishes at a specific rate over time.
- They can catch a rapid diminishment of your hearing ability, which could indicate an underlying cardiovascular health issue before it becomes acute.
- They let you know as soon as your hearing ability diminishes to the point that hearing aids are recommended. This allows you to adopt them early, which makes the adjustment easier and helps to prevent the potential negative outcomes for health and well-being that untreated hearing loss can bring.
If you think you might have hearing loss, or if you are due for a hearing test, you should schedule one as soon as possible. Your hearing test will let you regain control over your hearing health, and that will help you to live your life the way you want to.
If You Haven’t Had a Hearing Test Recently…
Here are some of the signs that you might want to have your hearing checked:
- Speech and other sounds seem muffled
- It is hard to follow a conversation, especially when background noise is present or you are in a larger group
- You confuse consonant sounds for one another—mistake a “t” for a “p”
- You have to ask others to repeat themselves often
- When you set the volume on the TV or radio to a degree that is comfortable for you, others complain that it is too loud
- Having a conversation makes you more tired than it used to
- You avoid certain social situations where you know hearing may be difficult
If you or a loved one may have hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today, and find out how hearing loss treatment can improve your life!