The risk of developing hearing loss increases with age. Age related hearing loss is the third most common medical condition that older adults live with today. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, estimates that nearly 25% of people ages 65 to 74, and half of people 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss. But only a third of people who could benefit from treatment actually receive it.
Hearing loss is widely undertreated. Delayed treatment can worsen symptoms and they can take on everyday life. This includes straining communication, relationships, social engagement, and increasing health risks. It is important to intervene early and address symptoms. Treatment is accessible and effective, transforming hearing and overall health.
Widespread Inaction on Hearing Loss
Research shows that there tends to be widespread inaction when it comes to hearing loss. A recent study that highlights the scope of untreated hearing loss was conducted by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Researchers surveyed nearly 2,500 adults and found that:
- 2 in 10 adults have had a hearing test in the past 5 years, compared to 6 in 10 adults who have had their vision tested.
- More than 51% of people reported hearing issues but only 11% have sought treatment.
- 78% of those with hearing issues have been experiencing these challenges for 1 or more years, and over 35% have had trouble for 5 or more years.
This data highlights that even when people experience hearing loss symptoms, these symptoms remain unaddressed. These findings also show that hearing health is not protected and symptoms are overlooked.
Why Hearing Loss is Undertreated
It takes an average of 7 years for people to address hearing loss symptoms. A few reasons that help explain why hearing loss treatment is commonly delayed include:
- Slow development: hearing loss typically occurs gradually. People may not notice their symptoms initially. As symptoms continue to develop, they can be overlooked and ignored for quite some time which delays addressing these symptoms.
- Stigma: through nearly 1 in 6 people have some degree of hearing loss, it is still stigmatized. People may feel embarrassed about their hearing loss or be in denial. It can be tough to acknowledge changes to health which can lead to people ignoring the issue.
- Misconceptions: there are numerous misconceptions about hearing loss that also contribute to inaction. This includes that it can be cured and isn’t that big of a deal so it can be dealt with later. But it is important to understand that hearing loss is a permanent medical condition that can increase health risks.
This inaction on hearing loss can have significant health effects that impact quality of life. It is important to recognize the signs and intervene as early as possible.
Recognizing Early Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss reduces one’s capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. This produces a range of symptoms including the following:
- Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears.
- Sounds are muffled or distorted.
- Trouble hearing in environments with background noise.
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder, and/or slower.
- Lip reading to help identify individual words.
- Needing to turn up the volume on the TV or other electronic devices.
- Moving to a quieter space to be able to hear more clearly.
- Pretending to hear, feeling lost during conversations.
- Experiencing fatigue after social interactions and conversations.
These symptoms can range from mild to profound, depending on the degree of hearing loss present. Symptoms strain communication and can affect relationships as well as social life. Social withdrawal is another common effect of hearing loss which increases the risk of developing depressive symptoms. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it is important to seek treatment early.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health
Treating hearing loss starts by having your hearing health comprehensively evaluated. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you are experiencing. Once your hearing needs are identified, your hearing healthcare provider is able to tailor treatment to meet your specific needs. Treating hearing loss can transform your hearing health and also strengthen your relationships, social connection, and overall health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.