Our hearing is integral to keeping us connected with the world around us, and to those we love. At Zounds, we truly understand the impact hearing loss has on quality of life and overall wellbeing.
More than 60% of older adults have a hearing loss. Unfortunately, only one in five who need a hearing aid actually wear one and they wait an average of 5-7 years before seeing a specialist for help. Untreated hearing loss can affect your ability to understand speech and can negatively impact your social, emotional and physical well-being. Recent studies have strongly linked it to other health problems, such as cognitive decline, increased risk of dementia, and poorer physical function.1
Once seen as a sign of aging, hearing loss is becoming more common at a younger age. Baby Boomers, those between the ages of 45 and 65, are developing hearing loss at a faster rate and younger age than previous generations. Causes include increased noise pollution and the use of personal listening devices that utilize headphones and ear pieces.
Signs that You May Have a Hearing Loss
If you have experienced some of the following, you may have a hearing loss:
• Difficulty hearing people talk in noisy environments such as a restaurant, shopping mall,
in a car, or at the movie theater.
• People seem to “mumble” all the time.
• Family, friends, or colleagues often have to repeat themselves when speaking with you.
• You have trouble hearing people when they are not facing you or are in another room.
• You have trouble following conversations.
• You have ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in your ears.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
• Exposure to excessive loud noise over a period of time.
• Ear infections, trauma, or ear disease.
• Harm of the inner ear and ear drum from contact with a foreign object (such as
• Illness or certain medications.
• Deteriorating hearing due to the normal aging process.
What are the effects of untreated hearing loss?
Hearing loss is generally a slow and insidious process. Because deterioration occurs over a long period of time, the individual becomes accustomed to accommodating for the loss and may not realize how bad their hearing has become. Unfortunately, the effects of untreated hearing loss are serious.
Untreated hearing loss is dangerous and can lead to a variety of health issues. Incidents of serious depression are higher in those with untreated hearing loss. As it becomes more and more difficult to hear, the individual begins self-isolating, withdrawing from family and friends as their frustration grows. The result is a loss of warmth in their relationships that contributes to further feelings of isolation. Disagreements over hearing loss are also common, as the individual struggles to come to terms with their loss.
Additionally, a recent study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging found a correlation between untreated hearing loss and a loss of cognitive function, noting a higher risk of developing forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. Auditory deprivation, which is what happens when the brain no longer receives appropriate auditory stimulation, leads to diminished cognitive function, auditory stimulation is critical in maintaining healthy brain function.
Reversing the Effects of Hearing Loss
The good news is that many of the issues experienced due to untreated hearing loss can be halted and in some cases, reversed when the individual is fitted with bilateral hearing aids.
Many wearers report feeling reenergized by hearing the world in a way they have not experienced it for many years. Once auditory stimulation is restored, cognitive abilities can sometimes be regained through special exercises.
1Johns Hopkins Study of 2011.