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In America today, some 48 million people are living with hearing loss. While hearing loss can affect people of all ages, it becomes much more common after age 60. In fact, about one-third of those aged 60–69 have hearing loss, and two-thirds of those over age 70 have it. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting we will all experience it eventually, if we only live long enough!

Despite the fact that hearing loss is incredibly common, it remains sorely undertreated. Only about one out of five people who needs hearing aids is currently wearing them, and on average it takes seven years from the time a person notices hearing loss to the time they do something about it and schedule a hearing test.

Why are so many people resistant to treating hearing loss? Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons people avoid treating hearing loss, and consider their merit.

“My Hearing Is Just Fine”

For most people, hearing loss sets in so gradually that they don’t even notice. It’s not until hearing loss becomes quite pronounced that they actually have to admit they have it. In the meantime, many people declare that their hearing is “fine,” even as they ask others to “speak up” and listen to the television at an uncomfortable volume!

A word of good advice: If someone else tells you you might have hearing loss, it’s likely that you do. The only way to know for sure is to schedule a hearing test.

“Sure I Have Some Hearing Loss, But I’m Getting By Alright”

New studies have investigated the effects that hearing loss has on cognitive functioning, and even young people with minor hearing loss (that’s less than mild hearing loss—a degree for which hearing aids are not recommended) have been found to use different parts of their brains when listening to speech, relative to someone with normal hearing.

The effects that hearing loss can have on our lives can be quite profound, even when it is mild. Mild hearing loss causes earlier social fatigue, more difficulty listening when background noise is present, and even an increased risk of accidental injury. As hearing loss progresses, the issues become more serious, like depression, anxiety, loneliness, social isolation, and a significantly increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

“My Hearing Loss Isn’t Bad Enough For Hearing Aids Yet”

The more pronounced hearing loss becomes, the more difficult it is to adjust to hearing aids. The best time to get hearing aids is at the beginning of mild hearing loss (about 20–25 dBHL of loss). Hearing loss tends to progress for a while, then plateau, but it’s impossible to know when it’s going to plateau. In the meantime, the brain starts to reorganize itself.

Our brains don’t like to spend energy unnecessarily! If we’re not sending them sound through our ears, they’ll let the auditory cortex begin to atrophy and send resources to the visual cortex. If this goes on for long enough, we won’t be able to understand speech anymore even when we start to wear hearing aids. This is why many hearing care providers offer training classes for new hearing aid wearers: it can take some effort to learn how to listen again.

All of this can be avoided if we simply get our hearing tested regularly, and start to wear hearing aids as soon as they are recommended by a hearing care provider.

“My Friend Got Hearing Aids and Didn’t Like Them”

When asked after one year of wearing them, 85% of people say they’re satisfied with their hearing aids. What may not have worked for your friend might work well for you! Every hearing loss is a little different.

There are just about as many hearing aid options as there are individual lifestyles! When you come in for a hearing test, we’ll ask you questions about your lifestyle, the kinds of activities that are important to you, and the times when your hearing loss poses the biggest challenges. We ask these questions so we can help you navigate your way to the set of hearing aids that is likely to fit best into your routines. We want to set you up for success!

Hearing aid technology also changes rapidly… A friend who didn’t like their hearing aids five years ago might now find a model they can really appreciate. If you haven’t looked at hearing aids in a while, schedule an appointment for a hearing test today, and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your life!

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