Reviewed by Dr. Porter on August 16, 2022
Hearing loss is a problem that confronts people of all ages.
In the United States, about 25 to 30 percent of people who have reached the age of 65 suffer some degree of age-related hearing loss. At age 75, that figure is 40 percent.
But hearing loss is a problem for younger people, too:
- Nineteen percent of people aged 40 to 69 surveyed by the National Health Interview reported problems with their hearing.
- Five and a half percent of people aged 18 to 39 in the same survey said they had problems with hearing.
- A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that about one in 20 teenagers suffers from permanent, noise-related hearing loss.
Even infants can suffer hearing loss. It’s always better to get hearing loss diagnosed and treated by an audiology professional as soon as possible. Here are seven reasons why:
- Hearing loss can have a devastating effect on children
When children can’t hear well, they don’t meet the milestones of healthy growth and development. Not being able to hear will affect their ability to respond to the world around them, to talk, to play and make friends.
Ideally, newborns should get a hearing test before they leave the hospital. Every infant needs a hearing test before the age of six months.
- Kids who get lots of ear infections can suffer permanent problems from temporary hearing loss
Children fall behind in school when they can’t hear well. They miss out on social opportunities, and they may be taunted by other children. Staying on top of treatment for otitis media and seeing an audiologist to make sure permanent hearing issues aren’t in the works are essential for children who have chronic middle ear infections.
- Hearing loss leads to social isolation at any age
When you can’t hear well, you don’t want to be with people as much. Usually, the problem starts with being unable to focus on a single conversation in a noisy environment. Your brain is actually working overtime to catch everything your conversation partner or partners are saying, and you hear a cacophony of sounds all at once.
As hearing loss continues, you don’t just want to avoid crowds. You may start avoiding individuals who speak at a pitch or in a rhythm that you find hard to understand. You may even start avoiding people altogether, living in isolation.
- Social isolation caused by hearing loss contributes to dementia
Johns Hopkins hearing loss researcher Dr. Frank Lin tracked the health of 639 older adults for 12 years. He found that those who had mild hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia. In his sample, adults with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely to develop dementia. And adults with profound hearing loss were five times as likely to develop dementia.
We usually equate dementia with Alzheimer’s disease, but hearing loss contributes to a variety of similar conditions that show up on MRI. Of the 59 people in Dr. Lin’s study with hearing loss who developed dementia, 39 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and 18 were diagnosed with other forms of dementia.
“Brain scans demonstrate that hearing loss contributes to a faster rate of brain atrophy,” Lin said in an interview with Johns Hopkins. “Hearing loss leads to social isolation. When you lose your hearing, you don’t want to be with people as much, and you don’t engage in conversations as much. Your brain does not get the ‘exercise’ it needs to fight off the changes that lead to dementia.”
On a related note:
- Good hearing helps to keep your brain healthy
Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with the formation of “plaques” on the neurons of the brain. Neurons become shrouded with a stick protein called beta-amyloid. They stop firing, and they eventually die.
Not everyone who has Alzheimer’s disease has an accumulation of beta-amyloid, but a majority of autopsies of people who had Alzheimer’s find it. However, good hearing may stop beta-amyloid accumulation.
Studies of lab mice have found that being able to hear a variety of sounds slows down or even stops the accumulation of beta-amyloid in aging brains. Mice aren’t people, of course, but it isn’t a stretch to suppose that continuing to be able to enjoy music, nature sounds, and conversation contribute to keeping the human brain healthy.
- People who can hear well suffer fewer falls
Falls can be devastating for older people. A large percentage of people who fall and break their hips die within two years. Older people who have osteoporosis have greater risk of fractures from falls and take longer to recover from them. And poor hearing increases the risk of falls.
Our ears pick up subtle signals from our environment as we walk. People who can’t hear are at greater risk of falls, and people who use hearing aids that they did not get from a professional audiologist are more likely to fall too. Getting the hearing correction you need from a professional audiologist can make a huge difference in your ability to stay mobile.
Audiologists can also diagnose and help to treat ear-related diseases of balance like Ménière’s disease.
- Sometimes the cause of hearing loss is something easy to treat
There is something about Q-tips you need to know:
They don’t actually get wax out of your ears. A little wax sticks to the cotton at the end of the applicator, but they actually drive ear wax further into your ear. Eventually, so much of the sticky ear wax known as cerumen can accumulate in your ear canal that you can’t hear well.
Believe it or not, medical research has found that six percent of the population of the United States has hearing loss due to ear wax accumulations they can’t remove on their own. Your annual checkup with your audiologist can catch this problem so you can get better hearing in minutes.
People have lots of rationalizations for not scheduling hearing checks with a professional audiologist. Some will say “My hearing loss is not that bad.” Others will say “I am too young for hearing aids.” Or maybe it’s “I don’t like the way I look in hearing aids.”
The average person with hearing loss waits 10 years before getting treatment. That’s a lot of opportunities needlessly lost forever. Harbor Audiology & Hearing Services Inc. can determine the cause of your hearing loss and get your treatment you need for your best possible hearing.
Don’t put off the hearing care you need. Let Harbor Audiology & Hearing Services Inc. help. Contact us at 253-999-9649 or text us at 253-338-5181 to schedule your appointment today!
Categorised in: Hearing Loss Treatment