Hearing loss is not an uncommon issue in our country. One in three people over the age of 65 have hearing loss in the US, and that number jumps to one in two for those over 74. Hearing loss is also the third most common physical issue amongst older Americans and is the number one most commonly reported workplace injury.
If hearing loss is so common, why have fewer than 16% of people aged 20-69 and less than 30% of people 74 and up who could benefit from using hearing aids actually worn them?
Unfortunately, there is still some mystery and stigma surrounding the use of hearing aids, even though they have been proven time and time again to have an extremely positive impact on our lives.
Leaving hearing loss untreated can have a profoundly negative impact on our social, emotional, mental and physical health, as well as our relationships and earning potential.
“People with hearing loss often don’t realize what they’re missing.”
These are the words of Mark Hammel, a respected psychologist in New York. When Mark was in his 20s, his hearing was damaged by machine gun fire during his time serving in the Israeli Army. It wasn’t until nearly two decades later – when Mark was 57 – that he sought treatment for his hearing loss and began wearing hearing aids.
In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Hammel said of the experience, “it was very joyful, but also very sad, when I contemplated how much I had missed all those years”. Mark, like many with untreated hearing loss, explains how he had stopped attending social gatherings because he couldn’t understand what was going on. He stated that he could hear conversations one-on-one in a quiet room, but in almost any other situation – including trying to talk to his daughter in the back seat of the car – he just learned to nod and smile.
Mark now understands how much his untreated hearing loss was affecting him. “So much of what makes us human is social contact, interaction with other human beings. When that’s cut off, it comes with a very high cost” he said. ().
Untreated hearing loss
Mark is not alone in his plight of living with untreated hearing loss, and then realizing what he was missing once he sought treatment. Unfortunately, the average American waits seven years from the time they notice changes in their hearing to the time they try hearing aids. Those seven years equate to not only a significant amount of missed conversations and opportunities, but also seven years of increased risk of many other health conditions.
- Untreated hearing loss increases risk of mental decline. In recent decades, there has been a growing body of research that studies the strong correlation between hearing loss and mental decline and dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. In 2011, researchers at John Hopkins found that people with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop the disease than their peers without hearing loss. Follow-up studies have also found that the use of hearing aids reduce the rate of mental decline.
- Untreated hearing loss increases risk of social isolation and depression. Like Mark, many people with untreated hearing loss slowly begin to withdraw from social situations because conversations become frustrating and tiresome when you can’t understand them. Social isolation has long been a known risk factor for both dementia and depression. Studies have also found that people who treat their hearing loss show less signs of depression that their peers who leave their hearing loss untreated. ().
- Untreated hearing loss increases risk of slips and falls. With untreated hearing loss, you are less likely to be able to hear small dangers behind you or at your feet, therefore you become more likely to trip over them. Recent research found that those with mild hearing loss were three times as likely to experience a fall than peers with normal hearing, with the risk increasing a whopping 140% for each additional 10 decibel interval of hearing loss. ().
Advanced Tech Hearing Aid Centers
At Advanced Tech, we care deeply about not only your hearing health, but your overall health and well-being as well. If you have noticed changes in your hearing, we would love to hear from you.