Undertreated & Undiagnosed: Age-Related Hearing Loss

Undertreated & Undiagnosed: Age-Related Hearing Loss

As we age it seems there is so much more, we have to pay attention to in regard to our health. In perspective, this is a small price to pay for maintained health down the road. When we pay attention to our blood pressure, our heart health, what we eat and maintaining an active lifestyle, we increase our chances of improved mobility and the ability to pursue our dreams and stay connected to friends and family. However, one health concerned which is commonly overlooked is hearing loss.

The Widespread Phenomena of Age Related Hearing Loss

It’s estimated that one in 3 people over the age of 65 have hearing loss. This number jumps half of all people 75 years and older. Age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis is the most common cause of hearing loss, a condition which is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to affect 466 million people worldwide. Even more alarming, WHO expects this number to jump to 900 million- more than double, by the year 2050! This is attributed to misconceptions around how to protect hearing on a global scale. Part of the issue with hearing loss is that it is incredibly hard to self-diagnose. Its far more common that others who you interact with on a daily basis will notice it first. Therefore, if someone close to you realizes gently suggests you have hearing loss, it’s best not to take the suggestion lightly.

How Undertreated is Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is so hard to self-diagnose because it often creeps in slowly over many years. At first only subtle tones and pitches go missing, making it difficult to hear parts of words or certain speakers. You may be missing whispers or the chirping of the birds and not even know it until someone refers to a sound you can’t hear. It could be decades of living with hearing loss before this progressive condition becomes severe enough to notice on your own. In fact, on average, it takes 7 to 10 years for people to address hearing loss symptoms. To explore the issue of the lack of or delayed treatment, the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association conducted and published a survey which polled approximately 2,500 adults and found: 

  • While only 2 in 10 adults have had their hearing checked in the last 5 years, 6 in 10 adults who have had their vision evaluated. 
  • 51% of study participants reported experiencing hearing issues but only 11% of those people have took action toward treatment. 
  • 78% of people with hearing issues have been experiencing them for 1 or more years, and over 35% have experienced hearing challenges for 5 or more years. 

Hearing Loss and the Stigma of Old Age

Because presbycusis is so common as we reach 60 and beyond, it’s a good idea to screen for hearing loss and this age, at least every 3 years, though it’s a safe bet to test regularly. Still, there are several barriers holding people back from seeking treatment. One of the most pervasive barriers is the social stigma of hearing loss. People feel that addressing hearing loss means that they are admitting their growing older. Unfortunately, due to media perception a large portion of our society is conditioned to reject aging rather than celebrating our achievements as we advance into old age gracefully. Part of graceful aging is staying up to date on your health concerns. 

When we treat hearing loss preventatively, we have the chance to avoid many of the dangerous side effects associated with it. This includes strains on your most cherished relationships due to chronic communication issues. It also increases the risk of depression, social isolation, loneliness, lack of mobility, cognitive decline, and an increased risk of falls leading to hospitalizations. When we embrace addressing hearing loss, we invest in a future where we can stay connected and engaged to the people we love and feel empowered and alert to pursue our interests.

Seeking Treatment

While age related hearing loss is permanent, it can be treated effectively using hearing aids. These amazing and tiny digitalized devices can be programed based on your hearing exam to amplify the sounds you need. When you commit to using hearing aids daily, you can follow conversations with improved confidence. The first step is admitting that you may be at risk. If you are 60 or older, it can only help to know the status of your hearing. Schedule a hearing exam with us today!