May is designated as Better Hearing and Speech Month by The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Every year ASHA chooses an umbrella theme to help guide their efforts to enhance global awareness of the speech-language-hearing issues that affect all of us. This year’s theme is “Building Connections,” and there couldn’t be a better time to focus broadly on enhancing our ability to connect with the world around us.
ASHA has divided the month into four weekly sub-themes, including:
- Week 1: Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults
- Week 2: Early Intervention & COVID-19
- Week 3: The Role of Health Care Speech-Language Pathologists) in COVID-19 Recovery
- Week 4: Summer Skill Building, Hearing Protection for School-Aged Children
More information is available on ASHA’s website, including essays, press releases, and blog posts regarding the up-to-the-minute science on hearing loss and its effects on our daily lives.
Hearing Loss and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has kept many of us indoors for the past year. With the number of vaccinated people continuing to rise, we may soon be returning to some semblance of normal social life. Hearing loss continues to pose a significant barrier to many who may wish to embrace the return to a more physically and socially active lifestyle.
Masks and social distancing have posed a special challenge to those with hearing loss. Masks not only muffle the speech coming from a person’s mouth, but also prevent lipreading and other cues from facial expressions. Social distancing means that voices lose volume as they reach our ears. For those of us who may be on the edge of needing amplifying devices such as hearing aids, these important precautions related to the pandemic have likely made hearing loss an unavoidable issue.
While nearly everyone has felt lonely during this time, hearing loss can accentuate that experience even more. Even during normal times, those with untreated hearing loss are at an elevated risk for loneliness and depression. This is because even mild hearing loss can make communication so difficult that we can feel lonely even when we are surrounded by people. While a person with hearing loss may be able to communicate with us by using special strategies, asking for repetition, and increasing their focus on the speaker, they may miss out on the serendipity of casual conversation. That may not seem like much “on paper,” but the effects on our emotional well-being are deeper than we may imagine.
Regular Hearing Tests
ASHA and The Better Hearing Institute, both not-for-profit organizations, recommend getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years thereafter. Those in higher-risk professions or with medical histories indicating a higher risk should be tested even more frequently.
Some may think, “What’s the point of getting my hearing tested?” Well, we live in a very noisy world. There are many potential sources of hearing damage that we encounter on an almost daily basis. By getting a regular hearing test, you can catch noise-induced hearing loss well before it poses a problem. There may be times when you imagine the noise level is safe, when in fact it may be causing hearing loss. By catching hearing loss when it is not even noticeable, you can start to learn where you require hearing protection throughout your life.
Hearing Aids Can Help
For those who do have more significant hearing loss, hearing aids should be fitted sooner than later. As mentioned above, even mild hearing loss affects our lives in sneaky ways that may not be apparent at first. By treating your hearing loss early, you can avoid the potential negative outcomes of untreated hearing loss like increased social fatigue, brain atrophy, reduced physical & social activity, loneliness, and depression.
Hearing aids have become truly marvelous instruments. Those who get hearing aids report satisfaction at a rate of 95%, when asked after one year. Even the adjustment period, which many people have historically reported as being difficult, has become easier thanks to integration with smartphones and apps that keep you connected wherever you find yourself. Sound quality can often be adjusted through the app, without an office visit so you can go about your day with the optimal listening experience for you.
If you or a loved one is starting to deal with hearing loss, or if you’re simply due for a hearing test, make an appointment with us today and make sure you’re doing the most you can to maintain your hearing health!