Did you know that hearing loss is the third most common medical condition that people live with today? Over 48 million, or nearly 1 in 6 people, have some degree of impaired hearing. Because hearing loss tends to be undertreated, the number of people living with hearing loss is likely much higher. It takes an average of 7 years for people to address hearing loss symptoms and only one-third of people who could benefit from treatment, actually receive it.
Hearing loss reduces the capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound which strains communication - an essential way we navigate everyday life. This has multifaceted effects including imitating relationships, social engagement, work performance, and health. Untreated hearing loss can increase health risks by contributing to cognitive decline, accidental injuries, and depressive symptoms. Fortunately, there are effective ways hearing loss is treated which not only transforms hearing health but also overall health and wellness.
Hearing loss can be caused by a range of factors. It most often results from damaged hair cells in the cochlea, located in the inner ear. Common causes of damage to these cells include:
Other causes of hearing loss include chronic ear infections, inner ear disorders, specific medications, and autoimmune conditions.
Hearing loss affects an individual’s capacity to hear and process speech and sound. This produces a range of symptoms including the following:
- Tinnitus: a ringing, buzzing, or clicking-like noise in one or both ears.
- Sounds are muffled or distorted.
- Difficulty identifying individual words and following a conversation.
- Struggling to hear in places with background noise.
- Asking others to repeat themselves, speak loudly, and/or slowly.
- Needing to move to a quieter space to hear more clearly.
- Being able to hear more out of one ear compared to the other.
- Increasing the volume on the TV, phone, or other electronic devices.
- Lip reading to distinguish words.
- Keeping up with a conversation is challenging, and experiencing miscommunication.
These symptoms can be mild to more profound depending on the degree of hearing loss in each ear. Strained communication often leads to social withdrawal and can take a toll on relationships. Untreated hearing loss also increases health risks like cognitive decline, depressive symptoms, and accidental injuries. Intervening as early as possible can significantly protect the hearing you do have and help you transition into better hearing health.
Fortunately, there are hearing solutions that can improve your hearing health and wellness. The first step is to have your hearing health comprehensively evaluated. There are a few types of hearing tests that are painless and noninvasive. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests measure hearing abilities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you are navigating.
Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. These electronic devices are equipped with savvy technology that absorbs, amplifies, and processes speech and sounds. Providing ample support to the ears and brain, hearing aids alleviate symptoms and maximize hearing capacity. This not only transforms hearing and communication, but the treatment also improves relationships as well as overall health.