Did you know that hearing loss is the third most common medical condition that older adults live with today? Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is a pervasive health issue. Though it is common, only a third of people who could benefit from treatment actually receive it. This highlights how undertreated hearing loss is and untreated symptoms can have major effects on everyday life and overall health. Untreated hearing loss strains hearing and communication which are essential ways we navigate daily life. This can take a toll on relationships, work, social life, and increase health risks. It is important to acknowledge hearing loss and take the steps to seek treatment. Treatment offers countless life-changing benefits that support greater quality of life.
Understanding Age Related Hearing Loss
The risk of developing hearing loss increases with age. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):
- 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss.
- 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss.
These statistics reveal the increasing risk older adults experience, also highlighting that half of all adults, ages 75 and older, have hearing loss. There are a few factors that contribute to age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. This includes:
- changes to the ear that a person may experience over time.
- the cumulative toll that exposure to loud noise can have on the auditory system.
- existing medical conditions that impact older adults (disproportionately) and are linked to hearing loss. Examples include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Most often, these factors damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of these cells which play a major role in how sound is absorbed and processed. They convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals which get carried to the brain. The brain is then able to further process these signals, which includes assigning meaning to them. This allows us to understand what we eat. When these cells are damaged, the brain receives less auditory information, producing chronic hearing loss.
Age Related Hearing Loss is Often Undertreated
Studies show that even though age related hearing loss is common, it is often undertreated. This includes a study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Researchers surveyed nearly 2,500 adults and found that:
- 2 in 10 adults have had a hearing test in the past 5 years, compared to 6 in 10 adults who have had their vision tested.
- More than 51% of people reported hearing issues but only 11% have sought treatment.
- 78% of those with hearing issues have been experiencing these challenges for 1 or more years, and over 35% have had trouble for 5 or more years.
This data shows that hearing health is not only prioritized but that it is also common for symptoms that are experienced for a number of years to go untreated.
Recognizing Early Signs
It takes an average of 7 years for people to seek treatment for their hearing loss. Contributing to this delay in treatment is that hearing loss usually occurs gradually. This means that symptoms can remain unnoticed for quite some time. Being able to recognize early signs can help you identify hearing loss, supporting early intervention. Common signs include:
- Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing noise in the ears.
- Sounds are muffled or distorted.
- Asking others to repeat what they said or to speak louder.
- Lip reading to identify individual words.
- Pretending to hear to get through a conversation.
- Turning up the volume on the TV or other electronic devices.
- Feeling drained after conversations and social interactions.
- Struggling to hear in environments with background noise and/or on the phone.
These symptoms can range from mild to more profound. This not only strains hearing and communication but it often affects relationships, social life, and health. Untreated hearing loss can increase a number of health risks including cognitive decline, highlighting the importance of intervening as early as possible.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
There are effective hearing solutions you can access to transform your hearing health and wellness. The first step is to have your hearing evaluated by a hearing healthcare provider. This involves a painless and noninvasive process that measures your hearing capacities in both ears and identifies what your hearing needs are.
Contact us today for a hearing consultation!