Hearing Loss is More Common than You Think
Hearing health affects overall health in innumerable ways that many people probably do not realize, but can easily understand when the connections are drawn. In fact, disabling hearing loss is a much more common problem than most people probably assume. The deaf and hard of hearing are under-represented in popular culture and media and when they represented, their disability is likely to be their defining characteristic. But in reality, this simply is not the case.
Out of every 1,000 babies born in the US, fewer than three are born with congenital hearing loss. But due to the many conditions that cause hearing loss, more and more people come to suffer from it as they age. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 6.3% of people aged 18-44 are affected. This percentage increases to 13.6% of those aged 45-64 and almost 27% of those 65 and over. An astonishing 50% of people aged 75 and older live with it. Together this represents 13% of the total US population.
The Potential Consequences of Hearing Loss for Older Adults
Many conditions may cause hearing loss. Some of these are obvious at the time, like a head injury or standing too close to a loud blast. When someone suffers a life changing catastrophe like this of course they recognize at once that they have been injured and seek care. But much more commonly, the conditions and circumstances that cause hearing loss are more subtle and the consequences emerge gradually. In these cases it is simple to understand why people may not seek treatment, because in fact they might not even notice the subtle diminishing of their senses one day to the next. Tragically, more than two-thirds of people in the US that live with disabling hearing loss do so without any sort of treatment.
Whether the condition is the result of bad habits at loud recreational activities or required proximity to dangerous volumes at one’s place of employment, or even just the gradual physical decay common to all of our bodies, failing to adequately address hearing health has deep and far-reaching ramifications.
People who struggle to hear often come to feel frustrated in both social and work events, especially when there is background noise or more than one person speaking at once. The concentration required to follow the conversation, intentionally shift focus, and fill in the blanks can be exhausting. This inspires people to withdraw socially. That social isolation leads to loneliness, and loneliness frequently leads to depression. and many people may not realize how debilitating depression really is. Especially in older people, social isolation and depression frequently lead to cognitive difficulties. Combined with the loss of balance that comes with hearing loss, our ears being central to our balancing system as they are, these cognitive difficulties risk causing disorientation and a downward spiral in overall health. But the means to avoiding all of this are simple.
What Addressing Hearing Loss Looks Like
It is often the case that one may recognize the symptoms of hearing loss in their loved ones and their behaviors more commonly than they recognize it in themselves. Seeing as this is the case, it is important to first normalize regular upkeep of good hearing health. It is not uncommon to have regular eye exams and physicals. Do the same with hearing health. Schedule regular checkups for both you and all your loved ones that you are concerned about. Intervening as early as possible before hearing loss continues to grow worse can make a tremendous difference in the effectiveness of the results. and this of course leads to both an improvement in overall quality of life and longevity.
Beyond this simple awareness and upkeep, the other remedies to be aware of when dealing with an elder who suffers difficulty hearing are basically the simple rules of etiquette you were likely taught in preschool. But their impact is rarely as obvious as in this case. Be patient. Understand that you might be expected to repeat yourself and using synonyms and context clues to help clarify your intended meaning. Be attentive. Focus. Be kind.
Take Action Today
At its core hearing health means giving yourself or your loved one the greatest likelihood of feeling connected to others and the world. Life force quite literally springs from this. And nothing means more to maintaining the health of older adults than this energy. Take action today. Make an appointment with one of our specialists to make sure that you are on track to providing your loved ones the quality of life that you wish for them.