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?