Hearing loss statistics are staggering: Fifteen percent of adults over 18 or 37.5 million people suffer from hearing loss. Thirty-five percent of all adults between 65 and 74 experience hearing loss. The numbers increase to fifty percent for those 75 and older. On average there is a seven year delay between the diagnosis of a hearing loss and treatment. Only sixteen percent of Americans with hearing loss have tried hearing aids or other hearing solutions.
I find these numbers daunting. If you were diagnosed with something other than hearing loss, you would seek help long before seven years passed. So why the delay with hearing loss?
There are many reasons why people delay seeking help with their hearing loss. Denial tops the list. Hearing loss for most people tends to be gradual. We hardly notice when our hearing diminishes. We turn up the TV or car radio volume, we ask others to repeat, we avoid cocktail parties. Soon a person with hearing loss convinces themselves that the problem is not with their ears but with their surroundings. That’s when excuses start flying around: People don’t speak loud enough, there’s something wrong with my TV, and restaurants have become too noisy. So the finger, so to speak, gets pointed in the wrong direction.
Many people suffering from hearing loss don’t realize the importance of hearing and the role hearing plays in balance and your overall well-being. We are social beings. We connect with each other through hearing and speech. When one loses their ability to hear, you become disconnected and that break exhibits itself in various ways. Isolation sets in. One may suffer from depression. A person with hearing loss may feel that they are no longer part of the world. Older adults might find themselves prone to falls or dizziness, thus prohibiting their ability to be independent. We should listen to what our family members, friends and co-workers tell us. If your spouse tells you the TV volume is getting louder and louder, that’s a sign. If your grandchildren or your coworkers mention that you often ask them to repeat, that’s another sign.
Many times people misunderstand what modern hearing aids can do for them. I’ve heard people say things like “Hearing aids are simply amplifiers and they will only make everything sound too loud.” Well-fitted hearing aids can be adjusted and the circuitry is designed to diminish background noise thus making hearing easier. People wearing aids report an increase in hearing of thirty percent in noise. Those fortunate enough to have directional aids report an eighty-one percent increase in hearing in noise. These days, there are many hearing options open to people with hearing loss. A visit to a trusted audiologist can dispel the notion that hearing aids are simply amplifiers.
Medical professionals and scientists are realizing the role that good hearing plays in our daily lives. Hearing loss is an important health issue and one that should not be ignored. If you or a family member are experiencing hearing loss, don’t delay. Seek the help you need. You may find yourself living in a more connected world.