A large number of people wait 15 years or more from the point when they first recognize they have a loss to when they purchase their first hearing aid. During this time, their quality of life may have deteriorated unnecessarily. Our ears function for us to hear, but understanding happens in the brain. Over time as you lose your hearing, your brain slowly loses the ability to recognize sounds and certain words. This is why you can hear but sometimes misunderstand.
The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) reported that hearing loss in older persons can have a significant negative impact on quality of life. In the NCOA’s survey of 2,300 hearing-impaired adults, age 50 or older, those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and less likely to participate in organized activities, compared to those who wore hearing aids. Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to:
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
- Impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
- Reduced job performance and earning power
- Diminished psychological and overall health
Dr. Max Chartrand, professor of Behavioral Medicine at Northcentral University in Prescott Valley, Arizona states, “Few chronic illnesses are as insidious and difficult to detect yet striking in their effects on our psychological and social well being as the uncorrected loss of hearing.”
Your hearing loss can also be a danger to your personal safety. According to the US Fire Administration, millions of hard of hearing Americans are unable to hear the warning sounds of a fire alarm. The Hearing Loss Association of America claims that people have died in a fire because they could not hear or wake up to fire alarms. Hearing loss also makes it difficult to hear important announcements, instructions, sirens, and traffic signals, which could put you and your loved ones in danger.
Hearing loss affects more than just the person with the hearing loss, but everyone around them. Others find it difficult to cope with your hearing needs; they have to repeat themselves, talk loudly, and use more signs and gestures while talking. A hearing loss is frustrating not only for you, but for those trying to communicate with you.
Hearing loss can affect you in the workplace. Nearly 2 out of 3 people with hearing loss are below retirement age and are still working, yet less than 13% report they received a screening for hearing loss during their last physical exam.
Hearing loss prevents employees from fully engaging in meetings and conversation, which fuels anger, instability and anxiety, while giving co-workers the impression that they’re less competent, says Sergei Kochkin, Executive Director of The Better Hearing Institute. Hearing loss also makes it difficult to hear over the phone and understand conversations with co-workers in a noisy environment.
If you are the spouse, child or friend of someone with untreated hearing loss, you may think you’re helping them by repeating yourself, making extra effort to speak louder or more clearly, or by interpreting what others say. What you may not realize is that you’re unknowingly assisting in their failure to seek help. Many people with hearing loss don’t realize how much they’re actually missing because you have become their ears. However, it takes only a short time for them to realize that, without your help, they’re in trouble. Here are some simple steps you can take to help your friend or loved one get the help they need.
Things you shouldn’t do
- Repeat yourself
- Raise your voice
- “Translate” conversation
- Act as their messenger on the phone
Things you should do
- Let them know waiting won’t make the hearing loss go away or get better.
- Communicate how their loss is affecting your relationship.
- Help them take action. Encourage them to get their hearing tested, and accompany them to their appointment.