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Age-related hearing loss is one of the most common chronic health conditions that adults experience today. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is the third most prevalent medical condition people navigate. Though it is pervasive, hearing loss remains underdiagnosed and undertreated. The National Institutes of Health estimates that only one-third of people who could benefit from hearing loss treatment actually receive it.
Widespread Inaction on Hearing Loss
Findings from a new poll conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reveal widespread inaction on hearing loss. The poll involved a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,500 adults. Key findings include:
- 2 in 10 adults have had a hearing test in the past 5 years, compared with 6 in 10 who have had their vision tested.
- More than 51% of all adults reported having hearing problems, but only 11% have sought treatment.
- 78% of those with hearing problems have experienced them for 1 or more years—and 35% have had trouble for 5 or more years.
These findings reveal a lack of prioritizing hearing health, even when impairment is being experienced. This poll in addition to other studies show that what often contributes to inaction on hearing loss is:
- Common misconceptions and stigma associated with the condition. This includes assuming that hearing loss is not a serious health concern.
- Impaired hearing is an invisible condition that typically happens gradually so it can be overlooked for quite some time.
- Acknowledging and confronting health changes can be challenging.
But the delay in treatment can not only worsen hearing loss but also contributes to increased health risks.
What is Age-Related Hearing Loss?
Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, usually occurs over time as people age. Age is the greatest indicator of hearing loss, as the condition impacts older adults disproportionately:
- 1 in 3 adults, ages 65 -75, has hearing loss
- 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older has hearing loss
Several factors can contribute to the development of age-related hearing loss including:
- Existing medical conditions: health issues like cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension increase the risk of hearing loss. The risk of experiencing these conditions increases with age and also impacts the auditory system.
- Noise exposure: the accumulative role of absorbing and processing loud noise over time can also impair hearing.
- Changes to the ear: structural changes to the ears (bones, growths) as one ages can also contribute to hearing loss.
These factors can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. These cells help translate incoming soundwaves into electrical signals which are carried (via auditory pathways) to the brain. The brain is then able to further process and assign meaning to the sound we hear. Age-related hearing loss disrupts this process, producing a range of symptoms that reduce one’s capacity to detect and process sound. These symptoms strain communication which takes a toll on all facets of life: relationships, work, social engagement, wellness, and overall health. Untreated hearing loss increases the risk of developing other health conditions including cognitive decline, depression, and accidental injuries.
Treating Hearing Loss
Fortunately, there are effective ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids. These are electronic devices that are designed to absorb and process sound, providing significant support. This support maximizes hearing capacity, allowing people to hear and communicate with greater ease.
Hearing aids have experienced significant innovation over recent years, now offering various features and technologies that better integrate the device into daily life. Hearing aids transform hearing and overall health by strengthening communication, relationships, enriching social life, and enhancing cognitive functions.
The first step you can take today is simple: call us to schedule an appointment for a hearing test! Hearing tests involve a painless process that evaluates hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you could be navigating.
Our team is equipped with the experience and expertise in hearing healthcare. We offer individualized care that centers your hearing needs and provides comprehensive services to properly identify and diagnose any hearing issues you are experiencing. Treating hearing loss can drastically improve the quality of your daily life, call us today to get started!