The onset of hearing loss presents us with a somewhat unpleasant choice: start wearing hearing aids, or adjust to life with less hearing. Many people decide to put off treating their hearing until it worsens to the point that hearing aids are an unavoidable necessity. In fact, it takes people an average of seven years from the time they notice a hearing loss to the time they make an appointment for a hearing test and seek treatment for it.
This is unfortunate. While hearing loss was once thought to be an annoying but relatively benign problem associated with getting older, we now know that hearing loss tends to set off a cascade of negative health effects.
Those who do not treat their hearing loss with hearing aids tend to suffer more accidental injuries and hospitalization. They also are much more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. They are more likely to suffer from loneliness, depression, and social isolation. They report more memory trouble, even with mild hearing loss, and are more likely to experience earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you should get hearing aids as soon as they are recommended.
Improve Your Memory
Those with mild hearing loss tend to subjectively report more memory issues than those with normal hearing or those who have treated their hearing loss with hearing aids. This is likely because the auditory cortex, where sound is interpreted by the brain and speech is automatically understood, is very close to the centers of short-term memory. When we can’t hear properly, it’s more difficult to understand speech and even more difficult to commit it to memory.
Hearing aids seem to solve this problem entirely since they restore the sounds you’re missing and allow your brain to interpret them as normal. That’s really what hearing aids are about: delivering more information to your brain!
Prevent Brain Atrophy
Missing certain sounds means missing necessary stimulation for your brain, which causes the auditory cortex to begin to atrophy. It’s not that brain cells die, but the grey matter that supports the structure of neurons starts to dissipate, allowing the structure to collapse. It can be regrown once hearing aids start to be worn, but it is better to maintain your brain’s health by getting hearing aids as soon as they are recommended! Once the auditory cortex has atrophied, it will be harder for you to comprehend speech. The ability can be regained, but not without some effort. But those who start wearing hearing aids while their hearing loss is considered “mild” are less likely to need them.
Keep Your Health and Lifestyle In Good Shape
Mild hearing loss tends to present major problems hearing speech when background noise is present. This makes it harder to enjoy social time at restaurants or bars, or at larger family gatherings. The extra strain it takes to listen in these situations causes us to become fatigued earlier than usual. Many people who are experiencing age-related hearing loss can mistake this earlier fatigue for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as late as I used to”—when in fact a set of hearing aids would make them able to enjoy social time just as much as they always have.
When we don’t enjoy social gatherings, we tend to shy away from them. Very quickly, we start opting out of invitations and getting less time outdoors. Those with untreated hearing loss tend to engage in much less physical activity than those who wear hearing aids. By getting hearing aids as soon as they are recommended, you won’t have to alter your current lifestyle due to hearing loss!
Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever
Those who get hearing aids today report satisfaction with them at a rate of 95%, when asked after one year of wearing them. Hearing aids have undergone major improvements over the last decade, and even the last few years. As technology progresses in other areas, it can be miniaturized to advance the capabilities of hearing aids.
There are many varieties of hearing aids on the market today. Hearing aids are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. When you come in for a hearing test, we will talk with you about your lifestyle and where your hearing loss has caused you the most difficulty. By getting to know you a little bit, as well as conducting tests of your hearing, we are able to recommend the type of hearing aids most likely to work best for you and your hearing loss. Far from causing a major lifestyle shift, hearing aids will allow you to maintain your current lifestyle.