18 Jan Hear Better, Live Better
Hearing loss affects every aspect of a person’s life. When left untreated, hearing loss reduces the social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being of those who have even a mild form of hearing loss. This impact has been well documented. Research from The Better Hearing Institute in Washington, DC indicates that hearing loss can be associated with embarrassment, fatigue, irritability, stress, anger, avoidance, withdraw from social activities, depression, loneliness, impaired memory (as one cannot remember what is not heard), paranoia and reduced overall psychological health.
There is good news though. Research studies overwhelmingly indicate that today’s digital hearing aids significantly improve hearing and therefore the quality of life of those who suffer from a hearing loss. To hear better really is to live better.
Hearing loss is the third most prevalent disability in Canada after arthritis and hypertension.
Statistics show that:
- 3 million adult Canadians suffer from hearing loss
- 3 in 10 people over age 65 have hearing loss
- the majority of all adults with hearing loss, or just over 65%, are below retirement age
- hearing loss affects all age groups, not just the elderly
- 1 in 6 Baby Boomers (ages 41-59) have hearing loss
- more than 7% of Gen X’ers (ages 29-40) already have hearing loss
- 3 in 1,000 infants are born with severe to profound hearing loss
Hearing loss tends to occur very gradually over many years. By the time a hearing loss is recognized and a hearing aid is worn, a person’s quality of life may have deteriorated unnecessarily. The average age of a first time hearing aid wearer is close to 70 years old, despite the fact that 65% of all people with a hearing loss are below the age of retirement. Studies show that the person who finally gets fitted with a hearing aid has waited 5 to 15 years since first noticing the symptoms of hearing loss. Sadly, only 20% of those with a hearing loss who could be helped by wearing a hearing aid, in fact wear one. This means that 80% of the hearing challenged population who could be hearing better, and have a better quality of life, are for whatever reason not doing so.
Why is this so?
There are a number of reasons why a hearing aid is not worn when needed. Many people are concerned with the perceived high cost or the poor reputation of the old style of hearing aids. Often people are in denial that a hearing loss even exists, or simply cite vanity as a reason not to pursue improving their hearing. Some people may fear that a hearing aid is too complicated to use or its size may be too big, or even too small. Attitudes are changing, however, as people (especially baby boomers) become better informed of hearing loss issues and the technological advances which are helping people to hear better.
A person’s inability to hear also impacts the lives of those around them. Untreated hearing loss is difficult for the hard-of-hearing person, but it is also stressful for all those around them. Daily conversations can be difficult and strained due to the constant need to speak loudly with many repetitions. Misinterpretations of what was said may lead to arguments and confusion. The television is blaring; the doorbell unheard and the telephone can only be answered by the “hearing helper”. Social gatherings are not as enjoyable as one must interpret what everyone is saying by becoming the “ears” for a hard-of-hearing counterpart. It can also be difficult or awkward for someone to interpret intimate or personal conversations to which one would not normally be a party. Sorrow and sympathy are also experienced when someone realizes that a loved one no longer wants to be involved in social events that were once pleasurable, such as family gatherings.
A hearing problem may make a person seem “out of touch” with what is going on around them. It is difficult, if not impossible, to intelligently reply to that which is not heard. An unheard question may often get a blank stare. Sometimes, people feel ignored or snubbed when their comment is ignored because they do not realize it was unheard. It has always been a common tendency for hard-of-hearing people to nod their head and smile in agreement to comments they did not really hear. ‘Do you want me to run away with all your money?’ A response of “Yes dear” may raise a few eyebrows.
People with a hearing loss delay a decision to get hearing help because they do not realize that receiving early treatment has the potential to literally transform their lives. Research by the American National Council on Aging demonstrates a clear link between wearing hearing aids and improvements in social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being of people with hearing loss across all hearing loss categories from mild to moderate to severe. To treat a hearing loss, it is first necessary to accept that indeed a hearing loss does exist and then commit to doing something about it. The first step is to have a hearing test by an audiologist to determine if a hearing loss can be helped by wearing a hearing aid. Studies show that 95% of all hearing losses are helped by hearing aids.
Today’s hearing aids are inconspicuous and have superior digital sound quality which greatly improves hearing in many different places such as at a restaurant, on the golf course or during a church service. Most hearing challenged people in their 50’s and 60’s can hear well in quiet places. A hearing problem arises when the person is surrounded by noise, and then tries to hear people talking. Around the world, hearing aid manufacturers are using advanced digital technology to maximize hearing ability in the presence of noise. These hearing aids have superior sound quality and, with a technologically advanced open ear design, they are almost invisible when worn in the ear. There is a wide range of hearing devices in all price ranges and a visit to an audiologist will show how stylish and technologically advanced these products have become.
Further studies show that:
- successful treatment of hearing loss is linked to greater earning potential
- people with hearing loss that wear a hearing aid, report better health than those who go unaided
- 95% off all hearing losses can be effectively treated with hearing aids, only 5% of all hearing loss in adults can be improved through medical or surgical treatment
- modern, directional hearing aids can now help hard-of-hearing people to hear better in noise
- nearly 90% of all hearing aids are leading edge, but easy-to-use digital instruments
- 90% of hearing aid users report improvement in their quality of life
The Time is Now
It is time for us all to take hearing loss more seriously. It is time for family physicians to routinely screen for and talk about hearing loss. It is time for family and friends of loved ones to encourage and support having hearing tested and the wearing of hearing aids if appropriate. It is time to stop ignoring this life-altering disability and understand the devastating impact on quality of life.
Hear better and live better. The choice is ours.