While hearing loss may seem innocent in its early stages, the reality is that those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to miss out on opportunities and do lasting damage to their physical, cognitive, and emotional health.
Because of the stigma surrounding hearing loss and hearing aids, it is almost impossible to know the exact number of people affected by this condition worldwide. However, rough estimates suggest that at least 466 million people—or about 1 in 20—have hearing loss. This number is likely much higher, as many avoid seeking a diagnosis or hearing aid fitting because they are worried about appearing old or disabled, without realizing that they are only limiting themselves in the end.
In fact, fewer than 20% of those whose quality of life would be improved by a hearing aid fitting have never even tried wearing one. As you can imagine, the adoption rate is even lower. But you don’t have to be one of those individuals. By visiting a hearing care professional, you can begin your journey to better hearing.
Still not convinced? Then consider these five reasons why you should visit a hearing care professional.
1. Impact of Hearing Loss on Employment
A study conducted in 2010 found that there were roughly 16 million people employed in the United States with hearing loss. On average, these employees were more likely to lose their jobs in addition to receiving lower wages and salaries compared to their peers without hearing loss. It’s suspected that nearly $26 billion in wages and revenue are lost every year because of untreated hearing loss in the workplace, while those who continue to work without treating their hearing can expect to decrease their potential annual income by up to $30,000.
2. Sinking into Depression Because of Hearing Loss
When one is unable to communicate as well as they used to, it’s likely that they will begin to avoid social interaction. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety that can keep people isolated and drive them to feel further misunderstood. Untreated hearing loss can make someone think they’re a burden to others, or they may become frustrated by others’ seeming inability to speak clearly. Over time, this can deteriorate self-esteem and increase feelings of isolation.
3. The Link between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
Hearing loss can also lead to cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. As you strain to hear and communicate with those around you, your brain exerts a lot of energy that could be used elsewhere. Over time, this stress on the brain can lead to a deterioration of healthy mental function, which has significant consequences on memory, comprehension, and understanding. Perhaps one of the most alarming findings related to hearing loss and cognition is that those with even a mild hearing loss are more than twice as likely to develop dementia compared to someone with healthy hearing, according to studies conducted by Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins.
4. Hearing Loss and Relationships
As you might expect, this difficulty communicating can put serious tension on relationships, at work and at home. Being fitted with hearing aids allows one to be more present and sociable among friends and family, lifting the dark cloud of frustration that accompanies a lack of hearing. All personal relationships depend on a healthy system of communication, and this can be damaged when an undiagnosed hearing loss becomes the elephant in the room. While this condition is known to sometimes break apart marriages, this could be preventable. In fact, many couples have spoken out about how hearing aids was the first major step toward rebuilding an unsteady relationship.
5. The Effect of Hearing Loss on the Body
Physically, hearing loss is known to contribute to vertigo or chronic dizziness. This is because the vestibular system in your inner ear, which includes three fluid-filled semicircular canals, are responsible for detecting movement. When this delicate system is compromised, the brain may have a hard time registering movement properly, leading to a lack of balance. As this symptom worsens, the risk of falling triples as you begin to lose your sense of equilibrium, making hearing loss treatment especially pertinent for the elderly and physically disabled. Those who experience these symptoms and those who don’t will likely experience fatigue and headaches as a result of hearing loss, which often contributes to difficulty eating and sleeping.
Get Help Today!
Did you know that the majority of those affected by hearing loss are below retirement age? Despite this fact, those under the age of 64 are less likely to get hearing aids out of a fear of being seen with a bulky device around their ear and announcing their condition to the world, if they have even acknowledged it themselves. What they may not realize, however, is how small, stylish, and advanced today’s hearing technology has become. Many devices are hardly visible at all, and those that are will likely not attract any more attention than today’s most popular earbuds.
For all these reasons and many more, it is necessary to recognize that hearing loss impacts more than the individual affected. Before treating hearing loss, it is necessary to reflect on any stigmas you may have that may be holding you back from seeking help. Always remember that being fitted with a hearing aid should be as normal as purchasing a new pair of glasses. Despite all of the studies that reveal the negative impacts of hearing loss, there is also a wealth of information that demonstrates how hearing aid adoption almost always improves self-confidence and patches up relationships that have been damaged by this condition.
Do the right thing for your health and enjoy the comfort of knowing that your hearing loss will never again disturb your most cherished relationships and moments of joy. Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to see what options are available for your lifestyle and degree of hearing loss.
Patricia ‘Tish’ Ramirez, Au.D., Director of Clinical Education for Signia
Dr. Tish Ramirez is responsible for the content, planning, and delivery of sessions to train the Signia’s network of hearing care professionals and staff on product and audiology-related topics. She leads a top team of audiologists who consistently deliver interactive and effective education through innovative vehicles. Tish has been in similar roles with increasing responsibility in manufacturing companies since 2001, and with Signia (then Siemens Hearing Instruments) since 2011. Prior to this, she dedicated five years to a clinical and dispensing practice, where she acquired a deep understanding of patient motivations and hearing aid technology.
Tish holds a doctorate degree in Audiology from A.T. Still University, a graduate degree from Arizona State University, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona. Tish has been a featured speaker at several industry events and is the author of articles appearing in numerous audiology publications.