One of the most common health conditions facing older Americans is also one of the least treated. More than 36 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss, including 17 percent of all adults and more than a third of adults over the age of 65. Although many adults may face the condition, treatment is frequently delayed for years, with only about 20 percent of people seeking necessary treatment. Here are five things to know about hearing loss, including who it affects and how treatment can improve quality of life.
It is common
Hearing loss is a very common health condition. It is the third most common chronic health condition among older adults. Nearly half of adults over the age of 75 suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Many people slowly loss hearing as they age, and it can be more common in some families than others.
Hearing loss has several causes
Loss of hearing can result from several different causes. Age contributes to hearing loss with a steady decline over the years. Exposure to loud noises, especially consistent exposure over time, can also cause hearing loss. Some medical conditions can also lead to hearing loss, such as viral or bacterial infections, heart conditions or a stroke, head injuries, tumors, and some medications.
It affects more than your ears
Hearing loss can affect on much more than just the ability to hold a conversation in a noisy room. Difficulty hearing can be associated with balance issues and contribute to falls. A person with hearing loss may be susceptible to injury because they cannot hear someone shouting a warning or they might not hear an alarm or siren. They could also miss a doctor’s instructions for medications or have difficulty communicating symptoms during a doctor visit.
Untreated, it can lead to depression
As hearing worsens over time, it can be written off as a common sign of aging, and people may not seek care. Failing to treat hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on a person’s emotional and mental health. Untreated hearing loss can cause depression, loneliness, social withdrawal, anger and poor overall health. People who do not treat their impaired hearing report a lower quality of life. They may be reluctant to participate in social events due to embarrassment or frustration over the inability to get involved in conversations.
It can be treated
There are a variety of treatments that can help a person with hearing loss improve their hearing and quality of life. A visit to a health professional is crucial to determine the cause and extent of hearing loss and to find the best solution. Hearing aids make sounds louder and can be worn in or behind the ear. There are several kinds, and a specialist can help find the best fit. Cochlear implants are devices that are surgically implanted inside the ear for severe hearing loss. Assistive listening devices include telephone amplifying devices and other systems that can be found in places like churches and theaters. A person can also learn to read lips to help them follow other people’s speech in conversations.
Hearing loss is common, but it does not have to diminish a person’s quality of life. With the help of health professionals, family, and friends, a person who is losing their hearing can get appropriate treatment and continue to live a full life.
This article was originally published by the Daily Herald.