Hearing LossIt's More Common Than You Think
One of the most common health problems in the U.S. today is hearing loss. Dr. Frank Lin from Johns Hopkins Hospital reported that nearly one fifth of all Americans 12 years or older have hearing loss so severe that it may make communication difficult. The findings, thought to be the first nationally representative estimate of hearing loss, suggest that many more people than previously thought are affected by this condition.
Often, the loss develops so gradually it goes unnoticed until it becomes severe. As the percentage of elderly in the population increases, so does the incidence of hearing loss and its unfortunate accompaniment, progressive isolation from others. It’s sad and frustrating to see a loved one smile and nod pretending to understand what’s been said. Yet, when relatives and friends suggest professional help, this reasonable advice is often ignored.
Those with a hearing loss, may find it easier to recognize their problem by seeing how many of the following signs of hearing loss apply to them:
- Playing the TV too loudly.
- Difficulty understanding someone speaking from another room.
- Answering questions incorrectly or responding inappropriately.
- Ringing in one or both ears.
- Insisting that people don’t speak clearly enough.
- Speaking too loudly.
Can Hearing Loss Impact Your Quality of Life?
If you have a hearing loss and are struggling with the idea of wearing a hearing aid or have been told by friends and family for years that you can’t hear and should be doing something about your hearing loss, please consider the following:
- You rely on your ability to hear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- We hear for enjoyment.
Engaging in a lively conversation, listening to music or watching a film involve the ability to hear clearly. Sometimes words aren’t what provide the joy in listening. A quiet walk alone in the woods or along the ocean can provide immense enjoyment a large part of which involve hearing the sounds of nature.
- We hear for reasons related to safety.
Hearing provides awareness of your surroundings from every angle (unlike your eyes which provide little information about what might be coming from behind you). Your auditory system is constantly scanning the environment ready to alert you to sounds that might be cause for alarm whether you’re awake or asleep. That explains why you can sleep through some sounds and other sounds will awaken you immediately.
- Hearing is a primary means of communication.
Human beings are wired to experience distress when our ability to communicate is problematic. While the term quality of life may be difficult to define, interference with the ability to understand and to be understood is bound to profoundly impact the quality of life of anyone who experiences that kind of a breakdown in communication for an extended period of time.
Is it Time to Get Your Hearing Checked?
If the last time you had your hearing checked it was done by the school nurse, it’s time to get it checked again. Most people tend to associate hearing loss with aging, but hearing loss can happen at any age. According to the National Institutes of Health:
- 18% of American adults 45-64 years old have a hearing loss
- 30% of adults 65-74 years old have a hearing loss
- 47% of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing loss
There are any number of factors that can contribute to a hearing loss, including:
- Exposure to noise
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
Unfortunately hearing loss is not a disorder that’s easy to recognize and is often left untreated for many years. Studies from Johns Hopkins document the impact of untreated hearing loss. Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins reported that, although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss, according to the results of a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging. The findings add to a growing list of health consequences associated with hearing loss, including increased risk of dementia, falls, hospitalizations, and diminished physical and mental health overall.
Helping Loved Ones Accept Hearing Loss
We would suggest that you don’t try to convince your significant other, family member or friend that they can’t hear. Let’s face it, no one wants to get bad news! Instead focus on providing a positive compromise, a baseline-hearing test. Everyone should have his or her hearing checked at least once. We’re all used to getting an annual physical. Everything from our weight, to our height, to our blood pressure is recorded and compared to both “normative” standards and our personal statistics from previous years. Any changes are noted and if anything appears to be a problem the results and options to resolve the problem are discussed.
An annual physical examination can serve one of two purposes:
- Provide a source of reassurance that you in fact have no health problems.
- Catch health problems before they become serious so that an appropriate management plan can be put in place.
Your hearing is no different. The status of your auditory system (all the parts that work together to allow you to hear) including your outer ear, ear canal, eardrum, middle ear and inner ear should be assessed periodically. A baseline test is a great idea for anyone! Even if someone is positive they have absolutely no problem hearing, that may change in a few years. If it does, their hearing healthcare professional will have something to compare to any future test results.
So, if you or someone you love seems to be showing signs of hearing loss, or if you just want a baseline exam, simply pick up the phone and make an appointment! If it is determined that there is a change in the hearing, we can discuss the best plan for you. That plan might include hearing aids, additional medical management, cochlear implants, or watchful waiting. We are here to help!