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Accepting that you are experiencing changes to your hearing can be difficult. It is often assumed that only older adults are impacted by hearing loss and that it is a sign of declining health. But hearing loss is actually a common health condition that people of all ages navigate. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that adults experience. According to the Hearing Health Foundation:
- 48 million people in the U.S. live with hearing loss
- 1 in 5 people have some degree of hearing loss
- 1 in 8 people have hearing loss in both ears
These statistics reveal how pervasive hearing loss is. Acknowledging the reality of hearing loss and addressing your symptoms, can prevent the condition from becoming severe and reduces your risk of other health concerns. Early detection and treatment can protect your hearing health and improve the quality of your life.
Understanding Hearing Loss: Causes & Symptoms
There are several factors that contribute to the development of hearing loss including the following:
- Medical Conditions: existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and dementia are strongly correlated with hearing impairment. These (and other) medical conditions impact blood circulation throughout the body, can cause inflammation, impact arteries etc. which adversely affects the auditory system.
- Exposure to Loud Noise: environmental exposure to loud noise impacts the tiny hair cells in the inner ear which are sensitive to intense soundwaves. These hair cells help translate soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain to process. They can lose sensitivity and eventually complete function by the intake of loud noise. We can absorb potentially harmful levels of noise by attending concerts, being in sports arenas, operating heavy machinery, working on a construction site etc.
- Genetic History: one’s family history, like many conditions, can impact hearing. It is possible to inherit mutated genes that affect the ability to hear.
These contributing factors can mildly or severely impair one’s hearing. Hearing loss often occurs gradually so people may not register the changes to their hearing for quite some time. It is important to be aware, and be able to identify the symptoms which include:
- Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices (TV, phone, headphones etc.)
- Asking others to repeat themselves, speak loudly and/or slowly
- Difficulty distinguishing specific words
- Being able to hear better in one ear over the other
- Needing to move to a quieter environment to have a conversation
These symptoms can cause people to avoid engaging in conversations, social settings, and participating in activities. Social withdrawal can lead to isolation which can strain relationships and contribute to loneliness, anxiety, and stress. This can take a toll on your emotional and mental health. Accepting and treating your hearing impairment can alleviate the pressure and stress you may feel trying to cope with your symptoms.
Addressing your hearing loss involves a relatively simple process. The first step is to schedule an appointment to have your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests are painless and noninvasive! Essentially, you respond to various sounds played at different frequencies which you are guided through by the specialist. This measures the softest sound you are able to hear in both ears. Hearing tests determine any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. This informs the most effective treatment to meet your specific hearing needs.
Hearing loss is most commonly treated by hearing aids. These small electronic devices are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound which drastically strengthens one’s ability to hear. Hearing aids are no longer the bulky and all too noticeable devices you may be thinking of.
Advanced technology has created significant innovation for hearing aids over the years. There is a wide-range of options that include various features and technologies that allow people to seamlessly integrate hearing aids in their daily life. Being able to hear more effectively enhances communication and helps people participate in activities and conversations fully. This allows people to move through their day and responsibilities with greater ease, improving overall health and well-being!