If you’re currently dealing with untreated hearing loss, you’re not alone. The CDC estimates that almost 50 million Americans spanning all demographics could benefit from hearing aids, but only about 20% actually wear them. What’s more, Americans tend to wait an average of seven years from the time they realize they could use hearing aids to when they actually get them.
The negative outcomes of untreated hearing loss are well-documented. They include increased risk of depression, loneliness and social isolation. The auditory center of the brain, receiving less information from the ears, begins to atrophy, which makes discerning speech more difficult even after a person starts wearing hearing aids. (Training is frequently offered to new wearers of hearing aids to help them relearn to listen to speech.) There is some evidence that this also leads to earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia. Untreated hearing loss also decreases our ability to balance our bodies, and can lead to physically damaging falls.
Hearing aids can help avoid these negative outcomes, which in itself is a good thing, but let’s take a look at some of the benefits of treating hearing loss with hearing aids.
Hearing loss is exhausting. When we can’t hear well, we need to do extra mental work to figure out what another person is saying. We put together context clues and make guesses about “em” or “en” sounds. We ask people to repeat themselves. This extra effort occupies a lot of the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that is usually dedicated to making sense of what a person is saying and formulating responses. This extra mental energy not only wears us out faster, but interferes with our ability to think clearly.
When we start wearing hearing aids, we let the auditory cortex do what it’s used to doing: comprehend speech. Our frontal cortex can then do what it’s used to doing and we won’t get nearly as tired. With age-related hearing loss, many people assume that the exhaustion they feel is a separate, age-related issue: just another part of “getting old.” In fact, hearing loss is wearing us out, and treating it will go a long way to keeping our energy up.
Improved Social Relationships
In a British study, 44% of people in a broad survey reported that hearing loss had negatively impacted their social relationships, with 34% saying it had caused serious problems in their marriage or partnership. Hearing aids remove a significant barrier between us and our closest people, allowing us to develop and deepen our treasured intimacies as we wish.
Appreciable Improvement in Overall Sense of Well-Being
The non-profit Better Hearing Institute found in a study that 91% of people who get hearing aids are satisfied with them, and it’s no wonder. Untreated hearing loss is a negative spiral of unattributable changes in mood and outlook. In a recent study, people who were new to hearing aids reported feeling more confident and independent, but also better about the state of the world. Hearing aids seem to improve a person’s outlook not only on themself and their own abilities, but on the world in general. In short, hearing aids help us feel happier!
Alleviate Annoying Tinnitus
Tinnitus, that annoying ringing or clicking in the ears, affects even more people than hearing loss. It’s one of the most common afflictions for Americans today, and is the number one medical concern for veterans returning from combat. Tinnitus can have a number of causes, ranging from stress to overexposure to loud noise. An anti-inflammatory diet, one of the best changes to make for a variety of health reasons including slowing the rate at which hearing loss progresses, can in some cases stop tinnitus, but there is no magic bullet.
Modern hearing aids are programmed to boost specific sound frequencies by the amount required by your hearing loss profile. In addition, they can be programmed to generate sounds to mask your tinnitus. Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy suffered from tinnitus after an explosion on the set of Star Trek, and both reported that “masking” was the only way they found relief from it.
Hearing Aids Have Come a Long Way
Far from the old whistling things you might remember from your parents’ or grandparents’ time, modern hearing aids are small and sleek, and do a lot more than just make sounds louder. As mentioned, they accentuate just the frequencies you need by just the right amount, restoring hearing (depending on the severity of your hearing loss) to near-normal. They have on-board computers that help reduce background noise while accentuating speech. They can integrate with Bluetooth and other technologies to help you hear clearly in all sorts of situations. Schedule a hearing test today and find out how hearing aids can improve your life.