With over 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, it’s worth knowing the truth about its effects and what the experience of a person with hearing loss might be. Many myths persist today, but little by little we can replace fiction with fact and come to a better understanding of what hearing loss means and what we can do to live with it.
Let’s take a look at the truth behind a few myths today and take one more step in the right direction!
If You’re Talking to Someone with Hearing Loss, Just Talk Louder
While some people with hearing loss might request that you speak louder, it will be more helpful in most cases to enunciate more clearly and leave a little extra space between your words. More often than not, talking louder will cause distortion that will actually make your words less intelligible.
If you can help it, try and reduce background noise and make sure the lighting is good enough for the person with hearing loss to see your face. And if they ask you to repeat something, try saying it in different words rather than just saying the same thing over again.
Hearing Loss Only Affects “Old People”
The likelihood that a person will experience hearing loss does increase with age, and the rate of hearing loss amongst centenarians is nearly 100%. Age-related hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. But about 40% of Americans with hearing loss are under 60 years old. Age-related hearing loss can begin around age 45 (though usually isn’t noticeable until years later), and many younger people are suffering noise-induced hearing loss from unsafe use of earbuds and other encounters with dangerous sound levels.
Military service is also a frequent cause of hearing loss, with tinnitus and hearing loss being the two most common medical concerns for veterans returning home.
Some people are also born with hearing difficulty, or lose partial or total hearing through accidents, disease, chemical exposure, or life-saving medical interventions.
Hearing Loss is Annoying but Benign
All the evidence indicates that hearing loss, left untreated, can lead to a cascade of negative health outcomes. Those with hearing loss experience more fatigue than those with normal hearing or those who wear hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss can also lead to brain atrophy, where a person loses the ability to comprehend speech, and ultimately an earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia.
Untreated hearing loss also puts people at a higher risk for loneliness, depression and social isolation. It makes sense that as we find it more difficult to communicate, we spend less time in the company of other people. Recent research on loneliness indicates that it is as harmful for a person’s physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Accelerated age-related hearing loss can also be an early indicator of an underlying cardiovascular disease. The non-profit Better Hearing Institute recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Frequent hearing tests allow medical professionals to track the progress of a person’s hearing loss and determine whether it is normal or unusually fast. This can also assist you in determining when the time is right to augment your hearing ability with hearing aids.
There’s Nothing You Can Do About Hearing Loss
While there is still no “cure” for hearing loss, new research indicates that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, such as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED), can significantly slow the progress or prevent the onset of age-related hearing loss.
Quitting smoking also dramatically reduces the risk of hearing loss. Keeping alcoholic drinks to a minimum is also a good idea. The jury is still out on coffee, but there is some indication that drinking three cups a day might actually help prevent hearing loss.
Fact: Treating Hearing Loss Brings Significant Benefits!
If you do have issues with hearing loss, getting your hearing tested and getting hearing aids is the best thing you can do to keep hearing loss from bringing you down. 91% of those who get hearing aids are happy with them, when asked one year later, and studies show they can help reverse cognitive decline and improve memory, as well as improve your general mood and sense of optimism. Don’t let hearing loss get the better of you!