As hearing loss emerges as a serious health issue for aging persons, it is increasingly important to stress the dangers of letting even minor hearing loss go untreated. Some experts posit that sufferers of hearing loss take an average of ten years before visiting an audiologist for help.
Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression, and even dementia. Difficulties with communicating leads to persons withdrawing from friends and social activities. This withdrawal, in turn, leads to greater depression, stress, and fatigue. All of these raise the risk of dementia and/or other mental health issues.
The onset of hearing loss is often slow and gradual. As a natural part of the aging process, older adults may not filter speech from background noise as well as when they were younger. This can be the reason some folks may ask others to speak more loudly or to slow down their pronunciation. When someone with non-diagnosed hearing loss has difficulty with conversations in public or need more seemingly unnecessary volume on the television or radio, then it is likely a good time to schedule a meeting with an audiologist.
A comprehensive hearing assessment will enable the audiologist to pinpoint reasons for hearing loss and, more importantly, to outline steps for treatment. Treatment might be as easy as the removal of excessive earwax. For more degenerative afflictions, hearing aids and other assisted listening devices may be recommended. While hearing aids have carried a traditional stigma that lessens their adoption, modern digital technology has evolved to craft aids that are both less visible as well as more easily controlled by devices such as a smartphone.
In addition to technological solutions, there are behavioral strategies that can be employed to improve communication among those with hearing loss. For example, reducing background noise, choosing better public meeting places, or focusing on visual clues can all boost a person’s hearing ability. In fact, organizations such as the Canadian Hearing Society as well as other audiology clinics, often offer classes and workshops on implementing such behavioral strategies.
Preventative measures are also important, even as one ages. Wear proper hearing protection when working or exposed to loud, heavy machinery. Such protection is also recommended for folks who travel regularly as plane, buses, and railways all create noise that can damage hearing through repeated exposure. Additionally, personal music listening devices that use earbuds or headphones should not be turned up excessively. In all cases, turning down the volume of listening devices is recommended. Finally, some experts suggest learning how to play a musical instrument or how to sing in a choir. Some studies indicate that playing a musical instrument through adulthood helps to maintain listening skills throughout life.
Adult hearing loss is a real problem for thousands of persons. If you or someone you love suffers from apparent hearing loss, it is important to take steps to get help. Schedule time with an audiologist and create an action plan for treatment and care. The sooner the treatment, the better the quality of life for all persons involved.