May marks Better Hearing and Speech Month! Organized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), this campaign raises awareness about a range of communication disorders, their impact, and effective treatment solutions. This year’s theme is building connections, which is an important way health concerns can be prioritized and addressed. A major medical condition this campaign focuses on is hearing loss. Hearing loss affects nearly 48 million people who live with some degree of impaired hearing. Though it is the third most common chronic condition that older adults experience, it is often underdiagnosed. By gaining a greater understanding of hearing loss and its symptoms, you can intervene early which is incredibly beneficial for overall health!
Understanding Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by several factors including:
- Existing Medical Conditions: including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, history of stroke etc. which increase the risk of developing hearing loss.
- Exposure to Loud Noise: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, preventing the complete processing of sound.
- Aging: also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noise over a long period of time, aging of the auditory system, or medical conditions that aging adults experience an increased risk of developing.
Hearing loss can also be caused by head injuries and genetic history. Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so it can remain unnoticed for quite some time. Additionally, it can be difficult for people to acknowledge changes to their hearing health. People often wait until hearing loss is severe to seek treatment. But early intervention can drastically support your transition into better hearing with greater ease. It is important to be aware of the symptoms so you can readily identify changes you may be experiencing.
Hearing Loss Symptoms & Impact
Hearing loss reduces a person’s ability to absorb and process sound. This creates numerous symptoms that strain communication, including the following:
- Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing like noise in one or both ears
- Sounds are slurred or muffled, making it difficult to distinguish words
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices
- Asking others to repeat themselves, speak loudly, and/or speak slowly
- Hearing is challenging in environments with background noise
- You can hear more clearly in one ear compared to the other
- Difficulty following entire conversations, especially with multiple people
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to profoundly, impacting daily life in major ways. Conversations become difficult to engage in and people with untreated hearing loss often over exert themselves in trying to hear. This produces fatigue and general unpleasantness which can lead to social withdrawal. It is common to want to avoid these interactions altogether which means skipping out on social activities and events. This involves spending less time with family and friends which can create distance and tension in relationships. In addition to communication being challenging, relationships can also become strained by it. Social withdrawal and isolation impact mental health in significant ways as it contributes to loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Fortunately, these symptoms and the toll they can take can be alleviated by addressing hearing loss.
Treating Hearing Loss
Prioritize your hearing health during Better Hearing and Speech Month by taking a simple first step: schedule an appointment with us for a hearing test! Hearing tests involve a noninvasive and relatively quick process that measures your hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss, the type, and degree of impairment you could be experiencing. Once your hearing needs are established, we work closely with you to recommend effective ways to meet those needs.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These are medically prescribed electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. Providing ample hearing support, hearing aids maximize hearing capacity which has countless benefits: strengthens hearing, improves relationships, reignites social life, and boosts confidence. Our team uses our expertise and your specific hearing needs as well as lifestyle preferences to recommend a device that would be best for you. We are committed to providing individualized care that is invested in enhancing your quality of life!