Do you suffer from hearing loss? You may be and not even know it! Hearing loss often develops slowly and becomes more of an issue over time. However, because of the gradual manner, many are left unaware. May is here and with it comes Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM), a national campaign led by ASHA (American Speech-language-Hearing Association) to raise awareness about communication disorders. This year’s theme is “Connecting People” drawing attention to the lifesaving benefits of addressing hearing loss now.
The Risk of Hearing Loss
The most common form of hearing loss is sensorineural in nature, a condition caused when damage occurs to the hair-like cells of the inner ear, which solely convert audio sound into electrical impulses, sent to the brain. Damage can occur from many causes, thought the most common are due to exposure to extreme levels of noise, changes to the ear due to aging, exposure to certain medications, head trauma, chronic infection, or exposure to airborne ototoxic chemicals, such as carbon monoxide. Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible but can be treated using hearing aids, which can enhance audio signal to the specific sounds and individual struggles with bases upon their specific hearing test. One goal of BHSM is to illuminate the importance of using hearing aids to treat hearing impairments.
Hearing loss starts in the ears, but it affects more than just your own well-being. The people closest to you are often the ones equally affected as they become your translators when you go out in the world and suffer frequent misunderstandings due the impairment. The cornerstone to healthy relationships is communication and it’s not just the exchange of information and big ideas with builds closeness. Aside from the high moments, it’s the quiet moments of casual banter and inside jokes which contributes to intimacy in our closest relationships. As hearing loss erodes these connections it’s common for relationships between friends, family, and romantic partnerships to suffer.
Hearing Loss and Career
Hearing loss makes communication difficult in every aspect of your life. Often people resist addressing a hearing loss with hearing aids because they are concerned with the price. While the best hearing aids on the market can be thousands of dollars it’s important to understand the whole picture. When you suffer from hearing loss it’s common to make mistakes in the workplace. You can mishear directions or miss important parts of instructions. It doesn’t take long for co-workers and employers to notice the safety risk that you pose when hearing loss goes unaddressed.
The issue become more severe because many people don’t realize they have a hearing loss or are reluctant to share the information. However, hearing loss is a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. For those who are concerned about the price tag of hearing aids it’s important to understand the devastating impact on earnings which unaddressed hearing loss can cause. The Better Hearing Institute reports that on average those with untreated hearing loss make $30,000 less annually than contemporaries with normal or treated hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Mental Health
The effects to your relationships in personal and professional environments quickly build up. It’s common for those with unaddressed hearing loss to suffer from chronic anxiety and depression. It takes a toll on a person’s confidence and self-worth. Common mental consequences of untreated hearing loss include:
- Problems concentrating
- Sadness or depression
- Self-criticism and lowered self-esteem/
Ultimately as the mental health of an individual with unaddressed hearing loss progresses, it can make it less alluring to participate in community events and family get togethers which they once enjoyed. The combination of depression, anxiety, and exhausting nature of communicating with a hearing loss causes people to avoid activities which once brought them joy. Self-isolation and chronic loneliness can contribute to cognitive decline even and a higher risk of dementia.
Hearing Aids Can Help!
This May, use BHSM as a call to action. If you are concerned about your hearing or the hearing of a loved one, make this the month where you finally address the issue. The first step is to schedule a hearing exam. This will allow us to know the extent of your hearing loss. With this information we can help you find the best treatment for you and your lifestyle.