Hearing loss can be a common problem, especially as people age, yet unlike vision problems, people may be less likely to have their hearing tested or receive treatment for auditory problems. One reason may be that insurance companies do not typically cover hearing aids, leaving people with the expense of medical testing and hearing devices. Another explanation is that those with hearing loss may feel judged or embarrassed by their condition. Unfortunately, hearing loss complications can impact your quality of life in ways that are more significant than the loss of hearing itself. Here are just a few important reasons why you should treat your hearing loss as a priority.
Find Out the Cause
Hearing loss is common as you age, but it isn’t inevitable. You shouldn’t assume that your hearing loss is a normal part of getting older because yours could be caused by another medical condition. Aside from a traumatic injury, such as a perforated ear drum, you could have an illness or infection, a foreign object, or even an ear wax blockage that may have resulted in diminished hearing. Other medical conditions can also lead to hearing loss, including a tumor, skin growth that obstructs the ear drum, or an autoimmune disorder. That’s why it’s imperative to seek medical attention when you notice a change in your hearing. A thorough physical exam and hearing test should be administered to determine the cause of your hearing loss.
Your sense of hearing does more than allow you to appreciate a bird’s song or a child’s laughter. It can also alert you to any hazards, from a crackling fire to rushing waters to an ambulance siren. Without treating your hearing loss, you may not be able to tell when you are approaching danger, especially when you are in public or driving a car. Assistive equipment exists to modify your home for hearing impaired individuals, but if you haven’t had your hearing tested, you probably haven’t investigated other types of assistance either.
You may not have thought about a correlation between hearing loss and balance, but the more you understand it, the more it makes sense. Balance and equilibrium rely on healthy inner ears to function properly. If an infection or cause of hearing loss impacts that region of your ear, you could find your balance affected. As people age, balance can diminish, leaving them at risk of falling. Ignoring balance problems can be almost as detrimental as ignoring hearing problems.
Perhaps the most significant of all the hearing loss complications is the increased risk of developing dementia. A study at Johns Hopkins University determined that even mild hearing loss can significantly affect the probability of cognitive decline, in part because of atrophy in certain regions of the brain. Those areas that process auditory sensory information may also affect other brain functions. By treating hearing loss, you may be able to reduce this risk factor.
Another concern with untreated hearing loss is the emotional impact. People who feel stigmatized by their condition may also feel insecure and anxious, especially in unfamiliar settings where they may not have control. That sense of low self-esteem and embarrassment can lead to anxiety and depression, especially in people who may already be experiencing signs of these common mental conditions.
Imagine you or someone you know has trouble hearing. You may stick to a routine that you know like the back of your hand, avoiding those new situations where you must interact with people you don’t know well. You may even avoid social gatherings with friends and family because you have difficulty following conversation or feel overwhelmed with loud music or excessive noise. In essence, you may isolate yourself from any environment that makes you feel uncomfortable because you are unable to hear well. Loneliness can be associated with anxiety and depression as well as cognitive impairment, so you should not underestimate the importance of socialization.
When you don’t seek help for your hearing loss, you can experience any or several of these hearing loss complications. Over time, your inability to hear clearly may be just one factor resulting in a reduced quality of life. Wellbeing is what adds meaning, joy, and a sense of purpose to your days, and while you may not realize it, preserving your quality of life can be the key to happiness at any age.
The truth is that over half of all adults will experience some form of hearing loss by the time they are 75 or older, so you are or will be in good company. Get your hearing tested if you notice difficulty following conversation, hearing the television or the doorbell, or ringing in your ears. Treatments such as hearing aids, surgical implants, and other techniques continue to improve as new technologies are developed. You may be surprised at how discreet some of these assistive devices can be as well as how they can help you every day.