When we see hearing loss represented in media, it’s often affecting older adults and frequently portrayed as a comical interlude with family members having to shout or adjust volumes to engage with the person struggling to hear. Even in children’s cartoons, characters talking to older individuals whip out megaphones to speak or older characters use an ear trumpet to hear - something that hasn’t been around since the 17th Century! When I was working in an assisted living facility, training volunteers often consisted of telling them not to shout to talk to the residents, as we had too many incidents of new guests speaking far too loudly and closely to the residents who would respond with “please quiet down, I can hear you!”. We remain surrounded by stereotypes that hearing loss is a problem only for the “old” and that’s just to be expected.
It is true that age-related hearing loss is currently the most common type of hearing loss. Hearing Industries Association (HIA) research revealed that the average age of the hearing loss population is 58 years old.1 However, while the prevalence of hearing loss increases with age, it should not be overlooked as just a “normal” part of aging that is simply accepted. There is considerable evidence to demonstrate the value of addressing hearing loss. We know that hearing loss is connected to physical and mental well-being. In a 2011 study by Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institute on Aging, it was found that adults with hearing loss are “significantly more likely to develop dementia” over time than those who retain their hearing.2 There have also been strong links between hearing loss, falls, isolation and even depression since those who have trouble hearing are more likely to avoid social situations. Untreated hearing loss causes higher healthcare costs and can be a detriment to our well-being the longer it remains untreated, so it should not be taken lightly as an inevitable event that occurs as we advance in years.
Whether it’s you or someone in your life who has a hearing loss, there are ways of treating it in order to continue your normal activities and enjoy a better quality of life. HIA research also shows that 83% of current hearing aid owners are satisfied with their technology. With new innovations being released every year, there are many choices and price points to treat your unique hearing and lifestyle needs. Your options can be discussed with a local hearing care professional where you can even ask for trials of the newest technology!
For those who currently do not have hearing loss, these are important reminders to consider. Noise-induced hearing loss affects millions of Americans, many of them young, and is 100% preventable. We live in an age where many restaurants blast music and we can stay tuned in to our TVs, gaming systems, or our personal playlists around the clock. With sound levels exceeding 85dB for longer periods of time, our hearing – and future well-being – becomes more threatened. It’s important to give our ears a break from noise throughout the day and limit our exposure to loud noises in our environment or through our headphones! You can learn more about the benefits of healthy hearing here.