At this point, we know that hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US, and that new studies have found that it affects approximately 40 million Americans. Hearing loss affects one-third of people age 65 and older; these numbers rise as we look at populations over 75 years old and 85 years old. Even so, the question remains: how many people seek treatment for their hearing loss?
Starkey Hearing Technologies recently outlined the benefits of treating hearing loss, but begged the question of “why do more than three quarters of adults let their hearing loss go untreated?”
Today, we take a look at why people avoid treating hearing loss, and why they should seek treatment as soon as possible.
Hearing Loss is Undertreated in Older Adults
In the past decade, a number of studies have revealed that hearing loss is undertreated in older adults, although the benefits are significant. In 2012, two studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on how age-related hearing loss is undertreated. For the 26.7 million US adults, age 50 and older, who experience hearing loss, only 15% use hearing aids.
In his study, “Hearing Loss in Older Adults, Who’s Listening?”, Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University says that “our current way of treating hearing loss is flawed…counseling, rehabilitative training, environmental accommodations, and patience are needed.”
In the second study, “Hearing Deficits in the Older Patient: ‘I Didn’t Notice Anything’”, Dr. James Pacala and Dr. Bevan Yueh write, “For many older adults, accepting the need for amplification, selecting and purchasing a hearing aid, and getting accustomed to its use is a daunting and often frustrating process.” They point to the fact that older adults, as well as clinicians and health care staff, often do not recognize hearing loss, especially in the early stages.
Essentially, both of these articles point to two main problems to treating hearing loss: identifying it to begin with and making the process of acquiring a treatment easier for older adults.
Dr. David Myers of Hope College in Holland, MI says, “Many hard of hearing people battle silently with their invisible hearing difficulties, straining to stay connected to the world around them, reluctant to seek help.”
What can we do to ensure our older loved ones are receiving the treatment they need?
Know the Potential Risks Related to Untreated Hearing Loss
In a study from the National Council on Aging, results showed that participants who did not use hearing aids to treat their hearing loss were 50% more likely to experience sadness or depression than participants who did wear them. Untreated hearing loss can cause rifts in interpersonal relationships due to barriers with communication. People with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw socially, as speech recognition becomes more difficult.
Studies from Johns Hopkins University have found that people with untreated hearing loss are at a potentially higher risk of developing dementia, due to the cognitive load required of the brain as it struggles to hear. A similar study from Archives of Neurology found that “years of sensory loss may increase susceptibility to dementia.”
The National Center for Health Statistics reveals that people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience symptoms of hearing loss before seeking treatment. Seeking treatment for hearing loss makes a huge difference to emotional and physical well-being – so why wait?
Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss
Keep in mind that it is difficult to discuss hearing loss. It is a sensitive topic that is often uncomfortably linked to aging. At the same time, avoidance of the issue will bring more negative consequences to one’s well-being than addressing it head on.
Studies have found that people who treat hearing loss with hearing aids tend to experience the same cognitive abilities as people who have normal hearing. People who are in the workforce tend to have the same earning power as their colleagues with normal hearing. People who address hearing loss are less likely to be susceptible to dementia, not to mention depression, stress, and anxiety.
In other words, treating hearing loss with hearing aids ensures that you are connected to your life, your passions, and your loved ones – which is inevitably linked to ensuring your happiness!
Take Your First Step Toward Better Hearing Health Today
Do you believe you are experiencing changes in your hearing? Or, perhaps, is your loved one showing signs of hearing loss?
Knowledge is power! The first step toward treating hearing loss is awareness of hearing loss. At Greentree Audiology, we provide comprehensive hearing tests. Contact us to schedule a hearing test today.