The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) raises awareness on hearing loss and communication disorders every May, with Better Hearing and Speech Month. This May, ASHA’s theme is “Building Connections.” which feels especially relevant given how so many of us have struggled to maintain our connections to others during this past year.
Here at Coastal Hearing Clinic our team is committed to improving lives through better hearing practices. It is essential to keep in mind that hearing loss is an invisible condition, which may be challenging to identify at first. We want to use the opportunity of Better Hearing and Speech Month to acknowledge the signs and realities of hearing loss.
How do you know you have hearing loss?
Hearing loss usually develops over a long period of time. During this time, people may feel the effects of hearing loss, but they may not know that hearing loss is the cause. According to the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), the following are some typical symptoms of hearing loss:
- a muffled feeling in the ear,
- asking others to repeat themselves
- ringing in the ear,
- difficulty understanding others in noisy places
- cranking the volume up on the TV
- Feeling like other people are mumbling
If you or a loved one has shown these symptoms, it is important that you get a hearing test.
What happens if you don’t treat hearing loss?
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to several related issues, from lower earning power to an increased risk for developing dementia. Generally speaking, untreated hearing loss may seem benign, but it could negatively affect many different aspects of your life.
- Diminished earning power: Studies have found that people with untreated hearing loss tend to earn less on the job than their colleagues with normal hearing and colleagues who treat their hearing loss using hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss interferes with our ability to make sense of sound in our environment. It makes it difficult for us to communicate with others, leading to more significant workplace issues. Hearing loss could interfere with memory and concentration, leading to lowered productivity. The good news: people who treat their hearing loss tend to earn on the same level as colleagues with normal hearing.
- A higher risk of dementia: From Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Frank Lin and his researchers have released numerous reports on the link between untreated hearing loss, diminished cognitive abilities, and an increased risk for developing dementia. Because hearing happens in the brain, when we leave a hearing loss untreated, our cognitive abilities struggle to make sense of sound. This leads to a heavier cognitive load, borrowing resources from other functions. Over time, this has been found to contribute to a greater risk for developing dementia.
- Emotional issues: Untreated hearing loss also affects our emotional health and well-being. Humans are social animals, and communication is at the heart of all healthy relationships. With untreated hearing loss, difficulties with speech recognition may at first be a silly frustration. Still, over time, this could lead to miscommunication and isolation. People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to avoid social interactions because of struggles with speech recognition. Coincidentally, social withdrawal and isolation are risk factors for dementia in older populations.
Time to treat yourself this May
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, but it is shockingly undertreated and undiagnosed. In part, this is because it is an invisible condition and people learn ways to accommodate their diminished hearing abilities. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that people wait an average of seven years to seek treatment for hearing loss.
Seeking treatment for hearing loss is the first step to better hearing health – and overall health and well-being. And, best of all, the first step is simple and painless. A hearing exam takes less than an hour and provides you with important information about your hearing abilities.
At our practice, we provide comprehensive hearing exams and hearing aid fittings. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.