Do you hear that people are talking to you but have trouble understanding what they are saying? Is it hard for you to hear in restaurants and other places with lots of background noise? Does your family complain that the TV is always too loud? Do you need to see people in order to talk with them? Are you exhausted after sustained periods of communication?
If any of these situations sound familiar, you may have a hearing loss. You would not be alone. Approximately 50 million Americans already have some form of hearing impairment. This includes one in 5 teenagers and 60% of our returning military personnel from overseas.
Untreated hearing loss can have negative effects on your health and happiness. I would know since I left my hearing loss untreated for a decade. I let myself struggle at work and started avoiding friends I had trouble hearing. I stopped attending the theater and only watched movies at home because I was worried it would be too hard to hear.
Eventually, enough was enough. I got my hearing tested and began wearing hearing aids. It took hard work as I adapted to hearing again, but as I adjusted, it began to change everything. I once again felt confident socializing. I went back to the theater. I started to enjoy my life again.
The more I learned about hearing loss, the easier things became. I discovered tricks to improve communication — like making sure the speaker is facing me so I can see his lips. I met other people with hearing loss through Hearing Loss Association of America and felt less alone. I realized I had been putting my health at risk by not doing something about my hearing loss.
Why Should You Get Your Hearing Tested?
1. Serious health concerns: Hearing loss is associated with many health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of falls. Most cases of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) also occur in conjunction with hearing loss.
2. Protect your mental acuity: Studies show that those with even mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia and this likelihood increases with higher degrees of hearing loss. Hearing loss is also linked to accelerated brain tissue loss. Wearing hearing aids has been shown to help alleviate these risks.
3. Better relationships: Don’t isolate yourself because you have trouble hearing. When you acknowledge your hearing loss, you can take action to improve communication. Turn down the music, request a quiet seat in a restaurant, or just ask somebody to move his hands away from his mouth. Knowledge is power. Use it.
4. Have more fun: If you know about your hearing loss, you can take advantage of accommodations like open captioned theater performances or free caption readers at the movies. Get a hearing aid with a t-coil so you can tap into the sound system of venues with hearing loops. More government buildings, museums and houses of worship are adding hearing loops everyday.
5. Times are changing: Hearing aid technology improves every year, and prices may begin to come down if the FDA approves new over-the-counter options. Personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs) are also available. These are technically not hearing aids, but can be effective for people with mild age related hearing loss — the audio equivalent to reading glasses.
Living with hearing loss is not easy, but acknowledging and treating my hearing loss has changed my life for the better. If you think you have trouble hearing, get your hearing tested today. Taking the first step is often the most difficult, but you will be happy that you know the facts. Then you can begin to protect your health and memory, and be better equipped to enjoy your life to the fullest.
Readers, do you know someone who should get his hearing tested?
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17 thoughts on “Five Reasons To Get Your Hearing Tested”
All good reasons!
Thanks for your comment!
Well, you inspired me to go get tested. I can’t hear people speaking to me at all in noisy settings and if someone is whispering to me, I do a lot of smiling and nodding. Time to see just what the damage is.
Excellent news. It is always better to know. Good luck to you!
That would be me, and this was so timely, Today I went to see my doctor about some jaw pain and ear stuffiness I was having. I thought it had been a dental issue because it started feeling like a problem with my lower teeth but the dentist referred me to my doctor. Anyway, the doctor noticed I had problems understanding him and he started to ask questions- after washing out an ear plugged with wax and some more questions, he is probably going to refer me to an ENT for an exam and a hearing test.
Good for you. It is always smart to have all the information you can. Best wishes to you on this journey.
Over the counter and PSAP options are not truly the best help available for hearing loss. In fact, OTC options are not yet available (still in legislative limbo), and PSAP options are not allowed to be marketed to treat hearing loss as things currently stand (and rightly so). Encouraging people to wait for and/or use those options is not truly encouraging them to get the best and most appropriate help for their hearing.
As you’ve written before, hearing aids are not like glasses and even mild hearing loss is not comparable to mild vision issues that can be treated with over the counter “cheater” glasses. While I agree that some help is better than no help for the hearing impaired, properly fit and properly programmed hearing aids are available at a wide range of price points and professional help can be accomplished at nearly any budget. There are even programs available, such as Hear Now, that provide hearing aids at almost no cost to people who otherwise would have no means to get them whatsoever. Furthermore, many hearing aids include the lifetime of care that is necessary to keep them working for many years as well as trial periods and money back guarantees, making them one of the best deals in health care. What other medical care do you get a trial, additional visits included and a money back guarantee? None that I’ve found.
The problem is not so much cost – it’s more stigma. No one wants to admit their loss. No one wants to get hearing aids. It’s seen as a hallmark of getting old, and people remember how not long ago hearing aids did not do a very good job in helping hearing loss. It’s gotten much better over time, and we do a better job now than we ever have, but the misconceptions and memory of past limitations remain. Hearing loss seems to be the only disability that it is perfectly acceptable that people make fun of me right to my face for having. *This* is the crux of the issue, in my humble opinion. Plus, there is a complete lack of awareness of the complexity and importance of hearing to every aspect of life. Cost, however, does make a very popular whipping post and is a legitimate concern.
If cost was truly the biggest issue in proper hearing treatment, in Europe, where hearing aids are provided at no cost under national insurance programs, hearing aid uptake would be 100% of those who need them. However, in Europe the uptake of hearing aids is only somewhat more (41.1%) than what it is in the United States (30.2%), where we pay for our hearing aids 100% out of pocket in most cases. Looking at Japan where hearing aids are over the counter and professional involvement is low, hearing aid uptake is far less than in the US (13.5%) and satisfaction rates are abysmal. Have a peek at this report I found on the FDA website from 2015 comparing outcomes between Japan, Europe and the US (where I got my stats above). https://www.fda.gov/downloads/MedicalDevices/NewsEvents/WorkshopsConferences/UCM497410.pdf
No two ears are the same, not even on both sides of the same head. There’s a reason that hearing aids are medical devices and professional help is required. Most people are not able to self diagnose hearing loss (as evidenced by most people waiting 7-10 years between first experiencing hearing issues and getting help) and most people consider their problem mild even when it is quite severe. I see this all the time when I meet new patients. The patient claims they hear just fine, and the spouse says they can’t hear at all. The spouse is much closer to correct than the patient. How do we know we’re not hearing something we should? We don’t. It’s simply outside our awareness. How can we accurately self diagnose something that we’re not even aware we’re missing? Encouraging people to self diagnose and self treat also can cause people to miss serious, even life threatening conditions in the ear which don’t often cause pain until the condition becomes very advanced.
The very best help for hearing loss is to see a professional and get customized hearing aids that are matched to the individual’s ear canal, hearing loss and lifestyle requirements. I am both hearing impaired and a hearing professional. I understand the desire for “cheap” options, but remember, you get what you pay for and there’s a big difference between doing something cheap and doing it right. Here’s an analogy for you. Dentures are expensive and not covered by most insurance. People don’t get dentures because of this. So let’s make dentures over the counter. Why should a dentist be involved? After all, it’s just some plastic teeth you’re putting in your mouth, right? Why should those be customized or professionally fit? Does this argument sound absurd to you? It sure does to me! And this is what the whole OTC hearing aid argument sounds like to me because of the complexity of treating hearing loss, even “mild” ones.
Encouraging people to use cheap options that are not individually fit can cause people to miss medical conditions that need treatment, or cause people to get the very wrong impression that “hearing aids don’t work” when the problem is that there are no one-size-fits-all hearing options to treat hearing loss because no two ears and no two hearing losses are the same. Two patients with identical audiograms often walk out of my office with different styles and levels of technology, and even if they’re in the same style and technology level, they walk out with different settings, because no two people perceive sound exactly the same either. Hearing aids are complex technology that requires proper knowledge and skill to get it right, and it is not at all like a cell phone or laptop where a manufacturer can churn out 1million of the exact same item and expect to make 99% of people happy. It just is not at all comparable.
What I would really like to see as a hearing impaired individual and as hearing care professional is for insurance companies to cover proper hearing healthcare including hearing aids just like it covers care for other serious medical conditions. Hearing loss is a serious condition that deserves proper treatment and causes serious negative health effects, social effects, emotional effects and psychological effects when left untreated or improperly treated. I would so much rather see Americans treat this problem correctly (adopting European model of full insurance coverage and proper professional involvement) than through removal of consumer protection regulations and creation of inferior inexpensive OTC products that are not going to solve the problem (Japanese model), putting consumers at unnecessary risk, leaving a false impression about the use of hearing aids in the treatment of hearing loss.
Thank you for your advocacy. I do enjoy your articles and your perspective very much.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I like how you mentioned that getting your hearing tested can help you to have more fun by taking advantage of accommodations. My husband seems to be having some problems with understanding things, and I suspect it might be due to hearing loss. Maybe it would be a good idea to have his hearing tested so we can know for sure and start using tools to help him enjoy life more.
It would be a great idea! Please encourage him to do so. Thanks for your comment.
Might I add safety? How many people are unaware of an impending danger such as a car coming out of a hidden driveway, a bicycle passing them from the back or other pedestrian situations? Someone walking behind them at night? A pot overflowing on the stove? The smoke detector or fire alarm going off? Misunderstanding the words of your doctor or the local pharmacist?
Hearing loss can be a dangerous disability. Thanks for sharing.
Mary Grace Whalen
Good suggestion. Thanks for sharing it.
This is a great list, thank you.
“Taking the first step is often the most difficult, but you will be happy that you know the facts.” – two thumbs up to that!
If I may, I’d like to share this checklist for buying hearing aid: http://www.okhc.org/hearing-aids/. I think it’s really helpful.
Thanks for your comment.
I can see why a hearing test is a good idea. It’s nice to know that it can help you have more fun because you can actually understand everything that’s going on around you. I love the theater, seeing movies and plays, so I think I need to get my hearing tested.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.