Celebrated on March 3rd each year, World Hearing Day, founded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2007, raises awareness around hearing loss and deafness on a personal and institutional level worldwide. The theme for 2021 is “Hearing care for ALL! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate” with the intent to make the treatment for hearing loss accessible to people on a personal level as well as in national and international policy.
Hearing Loss Affects People of All Ages!
It is estimated that hearing loss affects 466 million people worldwide, with 34 million still children. While hearing loss is commonly associated with old age, still the largest cause of hearing loss, it is not proactive to assume just because you are below 65 that your hearing is at full health. More and more research is uncovering that even a mild or slight degree of hearing loss can affect people’s cognitive abilities, performing lower and slower on memory and other tests measuring brain power.
It is well documented that untreated hearing loss can affect cognitive ability over time, but the findings that this can begin so early on in a hearing loss is alarming. This is mostly because hearing loss most often begins so slow that you most likely won’t notice it’s presence. With a mild hearing loss, you may miss subtle sounds like the wind in the trees or people whispering, with a slight hearing loss even more unidentifiable without a hearing test. This is why part of the job of World Hearing Day is to promote screening for hearing loss, regularly throughout a lifetime.
Preventing Hearing Loss
WHO estimates that the numbers of people who live with hearing loss will close to double in the next 30 years. This may be due to our world which seems to be getting louder and louder. Part of this is due to noise pollution such as exposure to unsafe listening levels at work and for leisure. Some of the most common causes include household items such as lawn mowers and even vacuum cleaners. Sometimes it is not one device but many running at once which can slowly degrade the sharpness of our hearing.
Sound is measured in decibels and any decibel over 85dB can slowly damage the tiny hairs of the inner ear which transmit sound to the brain to be processed. Once these hairs become damaged or destroyed, they cannot be regrown so protecting your hearing now can save further damage down the road. Even if you already have some hearing loss, continued exposure will only make your hearing worse.
One of the biggest culprits affecting the ears of a younger generation and driving up the number of hearing loss worldwide can be blamed on personal listening devices and headphones. These devices can easily produce sounds over 100dB, damaging ears overtime. It is not just the level of decibels but the length of exposure and now with unlimited media being streamed wirelessly, a younger generation is at risk for damaging their ears. It is important to take listening breaks when using personal listening devices and limit the volume to less than 60 percent of potential volume.
The Impact of Hearing Loss
Besides hearing loss’ impact on cognitive abilities, the effects of hearing loss span across physical and emotional health. Hearing loss is not just an ear issue but a communication issue. When hearing loss goes untreated constant misunderstandings slowly wedge rifts in your personal and professional relationships. This can lead to a decrease in self-esteem and closeness, quickly causing chronic anxiety and depression over time.
On an economic level, hearing loss has been found to negatively impact household income on-average up to $12,000 per year depending on the degree of hearing loss. However, using hearing aids was found to mitigate the negative effects on earnings by 50%. On an emotional level, untreated hearing loss has been found to cause people to self-isolate, paving the way for cognitive decline and dementia later down the road.
Addressing hearing health issues not only gives people a chance to succeed in the workplace but it can help reconnect people to their loved ones who may feel distant due to constant misunderstandings. Use World Hearing Day as an excuse to schedule a hearing test and start reconnecting to the people in your life. Contact us today!