Hearing Loss: The Big Picture
It is likely that most people would be shocked to learn just how common hearing loss truly is and just how damaging its consequences really can when it is left untreated. Studies estimate that almost 40 million Americans cope with it, over 13% of all people 18 years old and above. That makes it more common than cancer or diabetes and with aging demographics this percentage is likely to double in the coming decades. One third of all people over 65 years old and over half of people aged 75 and above suffer from it, so more older people means more people living with it. Perhaps most shocking of all, more than 2/3 of everyone that suffers from some degree of disabling hearing loss does so without proper diagnosis and treatment.
It must be made clear and it must be understood: an investment in your hearing health is an investment in your overall health and an investment in your overall health is an investment in your quality of life. This means improved circumstances daily, deeper contentment literally at every moment. This is why at your next physical you must make a conscious point to emphasize to your doctor that you prioritize your hearing health.
The Importance of Hearing Tests
In most cases people do not recognize that they are suffering from hearing loss because the symptoms come on so gradually. You may concentrate a little more closely to comprehend someone without noticing that you are doing so, or attribute it to a momentary swell in environmental noise. As the effects gradually intensify, it is very common to not notice that you have started reading lips a little or filling in the blanks to complete people’s sentences. These processes happen almost instantaneously and we move on. It is very simple to overlook. Not to mention that many common activities have a hand in intensifying hearing loss, even when they seem completely normal and innocent. But risks that may seem very subtle do compound. For some people it is a thrill to feel the energy of a crowd at a loud concert. So they go to another concert and even though they conceptually comprehend that earplugs are good for them, they resist wearing them because they want to enjoy this concert just as much as the last concert and fear that reduced volume will diminish the impact of the thrill. But the situation doesn’t need to be this extreme to be potbelly risky. Simply becoming accustomed to spending time in a crowded bar or restaurant with lots of background chatter or TVs can be enough to cause trouble over time. Of course you would not notice when you and a friend have to lean in a little closer each day and speak up even a little more loudly to hear each other. And the habits compound the consequences.
The Potential Consequences of Hearing Loss
What exactly are these consequences? Why is it so important that we do not downplay the risks of even minor hearing loss?
Most obviously and most extreme, hearing loss is a threat to your physical safety. Your hearing is what you depend on to orient yourself spatially and dodge risks in your environment. Your hearing is fundamental to your sense of balance. When your hearing is warped in any manner, dizziness comes on quickly, intensifying physical risk.
Maybe in an effort to downplay your hearing loss you adapt to staying at home more to minimize the risks of physical safety. More subtly, the emotional and psychological consequences come on. They emerge quietly and compound a little at a time until one’s quality of life seems suddenly sunken.
It starts simple, you struggle to make out someone’s words in a loud environment and write this communication barrier off as a minor inconvenience. But a little a time this strains relationships until you feel isolated and depressed and even professional opportunities cannot be capitalized upon. Many of life’s pleasures fade: a favorite song from your youth or an old friend’s chuckle. And as these symptoms compound they lead to cognitive decline, a bottoming out of one’s confidence and potentially even dementia. The research supports that those who take action to deal with their hearing loss enjoy an exponentially greater quality of life.
Take Action Today
People adapt to living with compromised health for all kinds of reasons. Addressing issues head-on takes time and energy and commitment. Taking action means being honest with yourself and not everyone is ready to start doing that. But why adapt to discomfort and a diminished quality of life? Your mental health and contentment are directly related to your connection to others and your ability to connect is directly related to your hearing health. Take the initiative at your next physical to discuss your hearing health. You’ll find out objectively how your hearing really measures up and learn the simple preventative tools and treatments that will deepen and enrich your relationships and professional opportunities.