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Hearing loss can be tough to confront. Though it’s one of the most common chronic medical conditions that people experience today, hearing loss is often underdiagnosed. Because hearing loss usually happens gradually, people can remain unaware of the impairment for quite some time. Also, it can be challenging to acknowledge and accept changes to hearing health. This overlooking of hearing loss leads to delayed treatment which can worsen the condition and produce a range of effects on overall health and wellness.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss reduces a person’s ability to absorb and process sound which causes various symptoms that can really disrupt daily life. This includes:
- Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing like noise in one or both ears
- Sounds are muffled or slurred making it difficult to distinguish words
- Frequently asking others to speak louder, slower, and/or repeat themselves
- Difficulty following entire conversations, especially in places with background noise and conversations with multiple people
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices (TV, phone, speaker etc.)
- Being able to hear more clearly in one ear compared to the other
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to severely, impacting one’s capacity to manage personal and professional responsibilities on a daily basis. The constant experience of these symptoms can take a toll and lead to more harmful effects if left untreated.
Risks of Untreated Hearing Loss
Untreated hearing loss and the symptoms it produces can have far-reaching effects on all aspects of life. A few major risks of untreated hearing loss include:
- Strained Communication: hearing loss symptoms create barriers to effective communication. Hearing impairment prevents people from being able to hear clearly which can significantly impact engaging in conversations. People can resort to reading mouths to help identify words or pretend to hear. This creates an unpleasant and exhausting experience as conversations require more work and effort to navigate.
- Social Withdrawal: strained communication makes conversations challenging and experiencing fatigue is common. This can lead to people with untreated hearing loss to avoid conversations, social interactions, activities etc. This means spending less time with family and friends which can impact those relationships by creating distance and tension. Not spending quality time with others and withdrawing from social life impacts mental health. This kind of isolation contributes to depression, anxiety, stress etc.
- Cognitive Decline: extensive research shows that hearing loss and cognitive decline are linked. Hearing loss impacts parts of the brain that are responsible for processing speech and sound. The brain is impacted in a variety of ways – inactivity, reorganization of neural pathways, and shrinkage. These factors can contribute to the development of cognitive decline.
These significant risks strain quality of life and health outcomes. Hearing loss symptoms and risks can be drastically alleviated by taking the steps to address hearing health.
Treating hearing loss has countless benefits that are life-changing: improved hearing ability, strengthened communication, enhanced relationships, restored social life, and better overall health. The first step in treating hearing loss is to schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist (likely an audiologist), hearing tests measure hearing ability in both ears. This involves a noninvasive process that records your responses to the stimuli that you hear. Hearing tests record the quietest sound you can hear (in both ears) and sounds that are more difficult to hear. This establishes any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you could be experiencing. Once your hearing needs are established, a specialist is able to determine the most effective treatment option to meet those needs.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids: small, electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This provides significant support, maximizing hearing ability across different environments. Similar to most electronic devices today, hearing aids have experienced much innovation over recent years. There is a wide range of options that have various features and technologies designed for optimal user experience. Hearing aids are more able to integrate into daily life and interact with other technologies (smartphone, speaker etc.).
Commit to your hearing health today by scheduling an appointment to have your hearing assessed! We’re here to help and look forward to hearing from you.