Our hearing ability is one of those things that we can try to maintain. But even with our best efforts, we may find that we don’t hear as well as we would like to. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother protecting our ears, just that there are no guarantees regarding the longevity of our hearing ability. Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to noise, genetics, underlying health conditions, smoking cigarettes, or with the passing of time. . More than one of these things may occur and result in more significant hearing loss.
About one-third of adults aged 60–69 have hearing loss. Two-thirds of those 70 and over have it to one degree or another. Virtually 100% of centenarians have it. It seems like if we live long enough, we’re all likely to lose our hearing to some extent.
The most important thing is to catch hearing loss early. The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Those in higher-risk professions or with a medical history indicating a higher risk of hearing loss should be tested even more frequently. Regular hearing tests are the best way to ensure that you can minimize the hearing loss that occurs from noise and other modifiable causes, and start a treatment plan once hearing loss becomes problematic.
Treating hearing loss—usually with hearing aids—is incredibly important. Study after study confirms that hearing loss, when left untreated, seems to set off a cascade of negative effects for health and well-being. By getting a set of hearing aids, you can live your life uninterrupted by hearing loss and enjoy all the things you always have.
If you haven’t had a hearing test recently, here are a few signs you might be in the early stages of hearing loss:
Fatigue After Social Gatherings
When a lot of people are talking at once or there’s a lot of background noise, mild hearing loss makes it very difficult to pick out one voice among the many. As a result, our brains work harder in order to understand what’s being said. All that work wears us out! Some people mistake this exhaustion for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as late as I used to”—when in fact a good set of hearing aids would make social time as fun and easy as ever!
You Catch Yourself Reading Lips
Some people read lips for years without realizing they’re doing it! With strong hearing, we tend to watch someone’s eyes when they speak, but as our hearing starts to go we begin watching their lips to help us get a clue as to what they’re saying. If you notice yourself watching lips instead of eyes, it’s a good time to schedule a hearing test.
Conversations Are Hard to Follow
Some people in the earlier stages of hearing loss may imagine that they’re just getting distracted, when in fact they’re getting distracted by their inability to hear clearly! As it takes more effort to understand, we’re more likely to start tuning out. If you find yourself getting distracted a lot or forgetting things that someone just told you, it’s a good time to get a hearing test.
The TV and Radio Are Getting Louder
When we can’t hear clearly, it’s natural to compensate by increasing the volume of the sound source when possible. If you watch TV or ride in the car with others and they complain that the sound is too loud, it might be a good idea to schedule a hearing test.
Hearing Aids Can Help
Hearing aids have come a long way in the past couple of decades, and even the past few years. They now help us focus on speech by reducing the amount of background sound while keeping speech front-and-center. Some models incorporate multiple microphone arrays and a wireless connection between the left and right hearing aids to help with sound localization, so you can stay zeroed in on the important sound in your environment.
Hearing aids connect wirelessly to all kinds of devices we use regularly. With a smartphone connection, you can control the volume and programming of your hearing aids without even having to touch them!