Hearing loss and your health
Published 8:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023
As we age, many of us tend to struggle more with hearing when people talk to us. This is especially noticeable in restaurants or places where there is a lot of ambient or background noise. Many of us are reminded that either we or the people we are closest to are having trouble hearing because one or the other is always saying, “What? I’m sorry, what did you say? Could you repeat that?” That along with a spouse or significant other always saying, “You need to get your hearing checked, you don’t hear a thing I say!”
Hearing loss can affect more than your ability to hear sounds. Good hearing is a big factor in maintaining your quality of life, and it can lead to serious consequences to your health beyond the frustration of not being able to hear well or at all. It can result in mental health issues, and health and safety concerns including:
- Depression due to isolation as you are unable or too embarrassed to join group conversations
- Isolation can lead to faster cognitive decline resulting in dementia
- Driving impairment due to the inability to hear sirens, horns and other vehicles accelerating
- Paranoia due to inability to hear environmental sounds and cues
- Increased stress from struggling to understand what is being said
Hearing loss can be the result of family history, diabetes, heart disease, circulation, or thyroid issues. However, it is a far more common factor in aging. Age-related hearing loss happens gradually, typically over a decade or more, and often goes unnoticed until it becomes significant. Among people 75 and older in the United States, nearly half have difficulty hearing and about one in three between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss.
Keeping tabs on your ability to hear is an important part of healthy aging. Sadly, most hearing loss cannot be reversed, but it can often be successfully treated and the earlier it is discovered, the easier it is to adapt to management techniques, hearing aids or other assistive listening devices.
In addition to comments from others that your or your loved one’s TV, radio or stereo is loud, here are some other signs of hearing loss that should prompt you to have your hearing checked.
- Having trouble following a group conversation
- Often thinking people are mumbling when they are speaking to you
- Frequently asking people to repeat things
- Having trouble understanding higher-pitched voices like those of women and children
- Increasing difficulty understanding conversations on the phone
- Becoming stressed at or avoiding large gatherings because of difficulty hearing in crowds
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness, loss of balance or vertigo
If any of these warning signs describe your or your loved one’s experience, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention from a physician who specializes in hearing loss such as an otolaryngologist (ENT) or an audiologist. Some offices offer free hearing tests and if necessary, there are many choices and styles of hearing aids that can be fitted to your ears and make your life so much easier and more enjoyable.
Lastly, as someone who wears hearing aids, forget about your vanity or being embarrassed. People won’t even notice that you wear hearing aids, but they sure notice when you misunderstand what they’re saying, or you are unable to participate in a conversation without often asking to have things repeated.
Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. You may contact him by phone at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org