Do you have hearing loss? You may and not even know it. One in eight people, or 38 million people in the US have hearing loss, in both ears, based on standard examinations. It’s important to screen regularly for hearing loss as people often go years without knowing they have an issue. The health impacts of hearing loss have been strategically underestimated by insurance companies who continue to do what they can to not cover this essential lifeline of health and communication. What starts as struggling to hear the people in your life can quickly progress into rifts in your closest relationships, loss of earnings at work, chronic depression, social isolation, and cognitive decline, leading to dementia.
In addition, hearing loss is a safety concern. Aside from helping you hear the people in your life, hearing loss helps you be aware of the world around you. Even mild or moderate hearing loss can impact your ability to protect yourself from harm. Our hearing, whether we realize it or not is constantly helping us determine the direction in which sounds are coming from and be alert of obstacles. If you have hearing loss, here are a few tips to keep you a little safer.
Being Aware of the World Around Us
The first thing we must stress is treatment of hearing loss. While it’s not always easy to self-diagnose hearing loss, due to the gradual nature in which it often progresses, there are signs which can clue you in to the reality that it’s time for treatment. This can include, struggling to hear people in noisy settings, needing to turn up the TV louder than other to hear, issues hearing over the phone or having to ask people frequently to repeat themselves. Others may already be pointing out that you are missing the sound of the oven timer going off or even a smoke alarm. High frequency hearing loss, the range in which many alarms register is very common for those with hearing damage due to advanced age or exposure to loud noise. This can lead many to miss alarm sounds and fail to wake up in time for work or appointments. It can quickly progress into a major source of danger as you miss sirens or traffic warnings. All too quickly your hearing can not only be a potential damage to you, but those around you.
Addressing a Hearing Loss
While hearing loss in most instances is irreversible, it can be treated using hearing aids, these tiny electronic devices are programed to specifically amplify the tones and frequencies that you struggle to hear. This can not only help you hear and communicate with the people in your life, but help you be more aware of the world around you.
Hearing aids can prevent falls.
We have two ears for a reason. When sound comes from the left side, our left ear picks it up first, helping to inform our brain of the direction of the sound. This plays a big role in our safety. People with an unaddressed hearing loss often have more difficulty navigating spaces and are more prone to falls and accidents which could lead to hospitalizations. To quantize the risk, Dr. Frank Link of Johns Hopkins University and Luigi Ferrucci of the National Institute on Aging, found, based on studies that those with 25-decibel hearing loss (defined as mild) were approximately three times more likely to have a history of falling. Each 10-decibel increase in hearing loss raised the risk of falling 1.4 times. A 20-decibel increase in hearing loss over the ‘mild’ grade would triple the risk. When we are younger, we can get back up from falls and simply brush ourselves off—however as we age, our bones are less resilient and a fall can be the start of mobility issues and even premature mortality.
Regular hearing testing is so important.
Whether you wear hearing aids or have just started to notice changes in your hearing, it’s critical to get an annual hearing test, especially if you’re over 50. Hearing is a progressive condition, so even with treatment, your hearing can grow worse and it’s important to keep your hearing aids and programing up to date. Schedule your next hearing exam today and stay on top of your hearing health and safety.