Hearing loss is a major problem in the US. As the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement, the number of people suffering from hearing loss grows. Do you have trouble having conversations in noisy restaurants? Are you always turning up the volume on the TV, or asking your family to stop mumbling? You are among the one third of adults over 65 who have hearing loss. Shockingly, only 20% of those who need hearing assistance have hearing aids! Why are so many people choosing to live with hearing loss?
What’s Holding You Back
Financial concerns are a major obstacle faced by those with hearing loss. An average hearing aid can cost $2000, and most people will need two hearing aids. Add to this the price of hearing exams and hearing aid fittings, and the cost becomes unmanageable. Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids or exams, and many seniors will put off visiting an audiologist until their hearing loss is severe.
Another hurdle is accepting that you need help. We often hold negative views of this age-related disability. Admitting that you have trouble hearing feels like admitting that you’re getting old, and no one wants to admit to that. However, leaving your hearing untreated will lead to faster decline in hearing, and reduced quality of life.
Unrealistic expectations of what a hearing aid can do for you is another concern. The hearing aid will enhance your ability to hear, giving you back easy communication and increased freedom, but it cannot make your ears 30 years younger.
Why You Need to Hear
Hearing loss affects more than just your ability to hear. Treating hearing loss is not simply about being able to hear the TV. Restoring hearing prolongs independence and improves overall health. It creates easier interactions with family and friends, reducing isolation and risk of depression. Hearing loss has been linked to a higher likelihood of falling or being injured, as well as higher rates of hospital visits. Perhaps the most frightening of the side effects of hearing loss is accelerated cognitive decline. The brain is so busy processing the garbled sounds of conversation, background noise, and buzzing, that there is little processing space left for other cognitive tasks. This overload means the brain cannot function normally, there is increased brain cell degradation, and a greater chance of dementia.
If left untreated hearing loss accelerates and becomes more profound. Some people experiencing difficulty hearing choose to purchase personal sound amplifiers, a simpler version of today’s modern hearing aids. One thing to remember though is that sound amplifiers (or PSAPs) are not meant to treat hearing loss. To effectively treat hearing loss and preserve natural hearing, it is important to get hearing assistance for mild or moderate hearing loss, and not wait until it’s severe. Learning to use a hearing aid and readjusting to a hearing world is more difficult with severe hearing loss since many of the neural pathways between the ear and the brain have been lost as your hearing worsens. “The earlier you address it, the easier it is and the more successful you can be,” says Dr. Frank Lin, an otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins University.
Don’t wait until it’s too late, overcome the obstacles and get your hearing back!
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