Despite the advancements in the hearing aid industry and the lessened stigma of wearing a hearing aid, fewer than 1 in 5 people treat age-related hearing loss. As Boomers head into an age group in which age-related hearing loss begins to present itself, experts do not expect this statistic to change. It has less to do with the characteristics of the Boomer generation and little to do with the current hearing aid market. Instead, experts don’t expect less than 80% of people to let age-related hearing loss go untreated because it’s a statistic that has not changed in over 40 years.
Hearing loss is difficult to diagnose
There are multiples ways that hearing loss can occur. A small percentage of the population is born with congenital deafness, most hearing loss is acquired through a single traumatic event, repetitive exposure to dangerous noise or age-related hearing loss. Of the former three, age-related hearing loss is the most common. It affects approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74. However, that figure is based upon self-reporting and the number of people dealing with hearing loss may actually be much higher.
This is because age-related hearing loss can be extremely difficult to self-diagnose. It’s an invisible condition that develops gradually, slowly over time. What that means is that the subtle interruptions in healthy hearing are not often noted immediately. And the symptoms of hearing loss don’t present exactly as you might think they will. Instead of an overall quieting of sound, age-related hearing loss usually begins as a distortion of frequencies. It might just seem as though everyone you’re speaking with has trouble enunciating their words. As hearing health continues to worsen, years can go by until it’s overly apparent that a hearing test is needed.
Stigmas against hearing aids
Although it has decreased quite a bit in the last few decades, there is still a stigma against hearing aids. Perhaps people consider it a visual guidepost of old age, which is hard to commit to when you still feel so young! The truth is that we probably interact with a much larger number of people with hearing loss than we even know because so many of today’s hearing aids are subtly designed and smaller than ever before. Some are even completely invisible!
Problems associated with undiagnosed hearing loss
While overall quality of life is often negatively impacted by hearing loss, there can be much more lasting and profound damage done when age-related hearing loss goes undiagnosed and untreated. Because the onset of hearing loss can be so gradual, it’s often a person’s habits and behaviors that change to accommodate the lessened degree of hearing before the damage is even noticed. Additionally, communication and conversation with others may become particularly challenging. It’s just human nature to adjust in order to avoid uncomfortable or difficult situations, which is why feelings of isolation is reported by many people with hearing loss.
Feelings of low self-worth can emerge because people with undiagnosed hearing loss can feel lost in conversations or as though they can’t make sense of what people are trying to communicate to them. This, plus those isolating behaviors, can quickly result in a slippery slope towards depression.
The impact of undiagnosed age-related hearing loss on the brain
Unfortunately, the dangers of undiagnosed age-related hearing loss extend beyond the emotional. Cognitive abilities can also be impacted, too. Much of our hearing actually happens in the brain, as sound information is carried there via the auditory nerve in order for the brain to translate it into what we perceive as hearing. It certainly makes sense that the loss of hearing would impact brain function.
Recent studies are emerging from Johns Hopkins University, studying the link between hearing loss and dementia. It is now presumed that as hearing loss progresses and the brain’s real estate dedicated to that sensory function isn’t used, the brain reorganizes itself. During this rewiring, basic functions such as memory might concurrently decline.
Visit Us at Hearing Aid Associates
With a hearing test, there are no down sides! If you don’t have age-related hearing loss, well that’s wonderful! And if you do find you’re experiencing a degree of hearing loss, you now have the information necessary to make some proactive changes that will undoubtedly improve your quality of life. Take the first step toward healthy hearing and overall well-being by contacting us at Hearing Aid Associates.