Hearing loss is a common problem in our society. It is due to the effects of noise, aging, disease and heredity. Hearing is a complex sense that involves not only the sensitivity of the ear but also the ability to understand speech. Here are some facts from the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders:
- Approximately 28 million Americans have a hearing impairment.
- The incidence of loss increases with age. Approximately 30% of people over age 65 and 40%-50% of people over age 75 have hearing loss. The incidence is greater in men.
- Only 1 in 5 people who could benefit from wearing a hearing aid actually wear one.
- At least 12 million Americans have tinnitus. Of those 12 million, at least 1 million experience a severe form that interferes with their daily activities and life.
- Approximately ten million Americans have suffered irreversible noise induced hearing loss and at least 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels every day.
- There are approximately 4,000 new cases of sudden deafness occur yearly in the United States. Of those cases, the loss affects only one ear in 90% of the cases. In addition, only 10%-15% of patients with sudden deafness know what caused their loss.
Consequences Of Untreated Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on an individual’s emotional, physical and social well-being. People that suffer are more likely to report symptoms of depression. In addition, they also express more dissatisfaction with friendships/family relationships, a lower level of functional health and they are more apt to withdraw from social activities. Studies have also linked untreated hearing loss to the following:
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Fatigue, tension and stress
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety (i.e. driving)
- Impaired memory and decreased ability to learn new tasks (signs of hearing loss and signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease are very similar). Also, a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging suggests that older individuals with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.
- Reduced job performance and earning power
Hearing loss is not limited to older individuals though. It can affect people of any age at any time, even children. Most people can be helped with hearing aids.
Hearing Loss: Separating Fact From Fiction
Myth Exposed: The most common cause of hearing loss is advancing age.
The truth is that it is exposure to loud noise that is the number one cause while only 35% of people with hearing loss are older than age 64. There are nearly six million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and more than one million are school age. Hearing loss affects all age groups. Hereditary factors and health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other circulatory problems also cause it along with certain medications like aspirin, some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs.
Myth Exposed: Only people with serious hearing loss need hearing devices.
The need for hearing amplification is dependent on your lifestyle, your degree of hearing loss and your need for a more sophisticated level of hearing. If you are a teacher or a lawyer, for example, refined hearing is necessary to understand the nuances of communication. Therefore you may not be able to tolerate even a mild level of hearing loss. On the other hand, if you live alone or in a rural area and seldom socialize, then your tolerance level for moderate loss may be higher. As loss severity increases, personal safety can also be jeopardized both at home, driving and in public.
Myth Exposed: If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.
Incorrect reports the Better Hearing Institute. Their studies show that only 14% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. At HearMD, we are working to educate all physicians on the importance of complete hearing evaluations for their patients.
Myth Exposed: Hearing devices will make me look “older.”
It is not the hearing devices that make one look older, it is the fact that you cannot hear, understand and communicate normally with others that make you look older. The loss is more noticeable than hearing aids.
Myth Exposed: Hearing devices aren’t worth the expense.
Research conducted by the Better Hearing Institute concluded that 9 out of 10 people indicate that the quality of their life has improved with hearing devices. Overall satisfaction with one year old hearing devices is now 78%, which is close to satisfaction ratings for most consumer electronics. In addition, persons with untreated hearing loss (who are candidates for hearing devices and choose not to wear them), have a higher rate of developing dementia.
Sources: Better Hearing Institute website at www.betterhearing.org and www.hopkinsmedicine.org.