Hearing loss is one of the most common medical concerns for people over the age of 60. About one-third of those aged 60–69 have hearing loss, and about two-thirds of those aged 70 and up have it. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting we will all experience it eventually, if we only live long enough!
Despite the prevalence of hearing loss, it remains sorely undertreated. On average, it takes a person seven years from the time they suspect they have hearing loss to the time they schedule a hearing test and get a set of hearing aids. Only about one out of every five people who needs hearing aids is currently wearing them!
Treating Hearing Loss Is Important
Hearing aids and other hearing loss treatments are critical for those who have spent their lives immersed in hearing culture. As hearing ability declines, changes start to happen in the brain and in our lifestyles that can lead to a host of negative outcomes for health and well-being. Loneliness, depression, social isolation, increased risk of accidental injury, and even a drastically increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia are a few of the problems that can come along with untreated hearing loss.
Still, it can be tricky to know exactly when hearing loss has become a problem. When we have near- or far-sightedness, we start to see that the world has become blurry. It’s easy to know that we need vision correction. With hearing loss, however, it’s not so simple. Hearing loss tends to creep in slowly, so our brains adjust to what’s happening day by day. We can’t see sound, so we don’t know what we’re not hearing. Until hearing loss becomes fairly advanced, we usually won’t know that it’s an issue for us.
Let’s take a look at a few of the signs that you might have hearing loss:
Someone Else Suggests You Have It
This is the first sign in the list because it’s usually the first sign! Other people with normal hearing or hearing aids may pick up on sounds that you don’t even notice. They might notice that you’re talking louder than normal, or setting the TV louder. While we may not want to hear it, if someone else is telling us we might have a hearing problem, it’s a good idea to get a hearing test.
People Seem to Be Mumbling
Does it seem like everyone is talking too quietly? It may be that you can hear some people but not others. For example, loud male voices might be easily understood, but you can’t understand what a small child is saying. If you find yourself regularly asking people to speak louder, more clearly, or more slowly, it could be that hearing loss has become an issue.
Anyone who has had hearing loss can tell you how exhausting it is. Your brain has to do a lot of extra work when you can’t hear properly, and that leads to getting tired a lot sooner. Some people mistake this fatigue for a separate age-related problem—”I just can’t stay out as late as I used to.” In fact, a good set of hearing aids can help you to enjoy social time with friends and family as much as ever!
Trouble Hearing With Background Sound
When hearing loss starts to become problematic, it poses more trouble when background sound is present than during a one-on-one conversation in a quiet environment. If you’re starting to pick restaurants based on how quiet they are rather than the quality of the food, it might be tim to schedule a hearing test!
What to Do About Hearing Loss
Hearing aids are still the best treatment for most hearing loss, and they’re getting better all the time! Today’s hearing aids emphasize speech while reducing background noise, and boast improved directionality, feedback (“whistling”) suppression, and more. They connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices, so you can stream audio directly from phone calls, video calls, and media. Smartphone apps allow you to adjust the volume and programming of your hearing aids, and even have a remote appointment with your audiologist!