April showers bring May flowers and now that we are finally getting a chance to smell them, many of us are ready to get active and make connections which may have been more difficult over the long winter. It’s a great time to reach out to loved ones that you haven’t spoken to in a while, but this can be difficult if you suffer from an unaddressed hearing loss.
Hearing issues can make it difficult to build connections as even casual conversations become a source of stress. This May and every May since 1927 is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM), founded by ASHA (The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) as a way to raise awareness to hearing issues and ways to combat the effects on millions of people in the US. The theme of BSHM is “Building Connections” and dealing with your hearing loss now can certainly help with that.
Hearing Loss Can Easily Go Undetected
If you have a hearing loss that is impacting how you connect and communicate, don’t be so hard on yourself. Nearly 48 million people in the US suffer from hearing loss making it a rather common condition, especially as you age. It’s important to point out that even if you do have a hearing impairment you may not even know it. Hearing loss often occurs slowly over time leaving many unaware of their progressive condition until it is difficult to hear in even the most ideal of listening situations. Even so, just because you are unaware of your hearing loss does not mean that the negative side effects are not affecting you.
Knowing the signs
If you can recognize the signs of hearing loss early you can seek treatment. Knowing the signs can not only help you self-diagnose yourself but a loved one as well. The most common sign is that you notice you have to ask people to repeat themselves often. This happens to anyone every now and then, but if this becomes all too habitual, then there is a good chance that you have hearing loss. Other common signs include:
- Sounds of speech sounds muffled
- You struggle to follow conversation in a noisy room
- You experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- You feel withdrawn or confused during conversation
- Others complain about the volume level of the TV while it seems fine to you.
- You struggle to hear over the phone.
The Importance of Treatment and Why People Put It Off
Knowing the signs is only half the battle. The next step is to seek treatment. While the most common hearing loss cannot be reversed it can be treated effectively with hearing aids. These tiny electronic devices amply the specific sounds in which a person struggles with, making it much easier to follow conversation and navigate the world.
However, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that “Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.”
Many people choose to be in denial of the signs of hearing loss for various reasons. Many worry that because hearing loss is commonly associated with old age, that wearing hearing aids will make them look old. Others fear that wearing hearing aids will be admitting that they are disabled. The sad truth is that avoiding treating hearing loss only makes the disability worse, however treatment can allow you to participate in life, making it easy to forget that hearing loss is even an issue at times.
Dangers of Avoiding Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is more than just an ear issue, but a communication issue. Strained communication due to hearing loss causes strains in relationships between partners, friends, family and professional relationships. Ultimately as this condition is ignored for years it can cause chronic depression and social anxiety ultimately causing people to self-isolate. This leads to a lowered confidence and less active lifestyle.
It’s important to remember that your total health is connected so if your emotional health is not correct it directly impacts your physical health. Don’t let the negative effects of hearing loss get the better of you. This May, use Better Hearing and Speech Month as a call to action and have your hearing tested today!