Although hearing loss can happen suddenly due to accident or injury, in almost all cases it happens very gradually. Over time a person will typically make accommodations to account for the loss, such as increasing television or music volume. As hearing loss increases it may be grow increasingly difficult to follow conversations with family and friends or clearly hear outdoor noise such the birds chirping or oncoming traffic — sounds that don’t come with a volume control.
Some people with poor hearing struggle with their problem, reluctant to get help or perhaps unaware that help is available. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15 percent of American adults say they have some hearing difficulty.
Although hearing aids work very well and make a big difference, some choose not to use them. The NIDCD estimates that less than one in three adults over 70 who would benefit from a hearing aid have ever used one. According to the data, of individuals ages 20 to 69, only 16 percent of those who could benefit from a hearing aid have tried using one.
David Myers, a psychology professor at Hope College in Michigan, has hearing loss. He says that although the condition began in his teens, he didn’t get a hearing aid until he was in his 40s. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, people wait about six years after the initial onset of hearing loss before receiving treatment, mainly due to denial, vanity and lack of awareness of their condition.
The National Council on Aging conducted a study revealing that in addition to poor hearing, there are other problems associated with not utilizing a hearing aid. One of these issues is a 50 percent increase in the likelihood of developing depression.
The study found that use of a hearing aid encouraged people to participate in social functions that reduce isolation, a possible risk factor for dementia, according to the journal Archives of Neurology. People with very poor hearing can become angry, frustrated, depressed and anxious, Myers says.
Hearing aid technology has made incredible strides in recent years. These tiny gadgets are now almost invisible and amplify hearing efficiently. To hear clearly after years of muffled sounds and missed conversations is a great gift and contributes to improved mental health and cognitive function.
Myers proposes that one way to fight the psychological effects of hearing loss is to improve the facilities for the hearing impaired in public spaces. The “hearing loop” system in use in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom allows those with hearing loss to become more social. The system enables hearing aids to function as wireless speakers and works particularly well where there is much background noise such as in railway stations and auditoriums. Anyone who becomes aware that their hearing is becoming limited should start with a visit to a family physician. A doctor can conduct an ear examination and refer the patient to a hearing specialist.
For those experiencing depression and anxiety over physical limitations like hearing loss, treatment centers can help. Sovereign Health Florida addresses and provides healthy coping mechanisms for potentially debilitating mental health disorders. If you or a loved one would like further information, please call 866-269-2493 to speak with a member of our team.
Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer
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