Leveling Up Your Health What We All Need To Hear About Hearing Loss
Though both my parents struggled with hearing loss in their later years, I never gave it much thought.
Until Covid lockdown.
That’s when I noticed how much I’d been lip reading — I could no longer hear what anyone was saying behind their protective masks. The final straw was when my daughters came home for a visit and I kept asking them to repeat themselves, again and again.
“OMG, I need hearing aids, I’m officially going deaf, what’s next?” Instead of being thankful that there was an option to help put me back into the conversation, I felt like a failure. I wasn’t ready to accept this new reality, one I’d obviously been denying for quite a while.
Turns out, hearing aids opened up a whole new world for me. I was able to step back into the flow of life and navigating through my days was way easier. I realized just how much I’d been missing. It was so liberating to hear things without having to guess at what was being said.
It helped me to know that I wasn’t alone.
According to the National Institute on Aging, age-related hearing loss, termed Presbycusis, is one of the most common conditions that gradually occur as a result of our body’s aging process. About one-third of older adults have hearing loss, and the chance of developing hearing loss increases with age.
Here’s what I found most surprising. Untreated hearing loss is associated with a host of other social and medical problems. Yet, the vast majority of Americans with hearing loss don’t seek treatment.
Would you get tested if you knew hearing loss was linked to dementia, cognitive decline and falling?
Dementia: According to the CDC, there are 6.2 million Americans age 65+ with Alzheimer’s disease. Up to 40% of those dementia cases could be delayed or prevented by focusing on contributing factors such as hearing loss.
Cognitive Decline: The task of processing what we hear helps our brain stay active. Think “use it or lose it” scenario. When the part of our brain that processes what we hear is not getting stimulated, it atrophies, which can make thinking and concentrating more difficult. Hearing loss also makes our brain work harder in other areas, forcing it to strain to hear and fill in the gaps. All this adds up to increased cognitive load where the brain is overwhelmed with demands on its limited resources, causing mental fatigue, which can lead to anxiety and depression and feelings of isolation.
Falls: Our ears play a key role in our balance. A Johns Hopkins study of people ages 40 to 69 found that those with a mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling.
What Stops Us From Considering Hearing Aid Use:
We undervalue the importance of hearing health. (Hearing is a part of our five senses that are vital to keeping us functioning at optimal levels. While vision affects our physical safety, hearing loss is often a gradual degrading condition that goes unnoticed over time. Some prescription medications used to treat serious infections can also permanently damage the inner ear.)
Stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. (Admittedly, for years my vanity kept me from even getting tested. With my short hair I didn’t want my deficiency on full display, but thanks to today’s technology there are a variety of options to choose from.)
Lack of accessibility and high cost. The average cost of prescription hearing aids range from $2,000 to $4,600, while over the counter pairs average $500. (Though not traditionally covered by health insurance, some private insurance providers, certain Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicaid can offer coverage. As of this year, Medicare covers a visit to an audiologist without a referral from a physician. You can also check your hearing online for free by downloading a hearing screening app like Mimi.)
High expectations of performance. We often forget that hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss or correct the underlying issues. (From my experience, wearing them takes some getting used to, and it helps if you use them consistently. They should be comfortable to wear, and easy to adjust when you find yourself in new social settings and noisy environments.)
Not a priority on our health and wellness list. (A 2022 survey found that we are more likely to get a physical or eye exam, maintain a diet/exercise program, have our cholesterol checked, or take our pet to the vet, before we have our hearing evaluated.)
I wanted to speak up about hearing loss because I’m living with it, and perhaps you may be too. It sort of creeps up over time. Once I owned it, I remedied my situation by choosing to get help. It took me awhile to get there, but I’m so thankful I did.
Looking on the bright side… My husband’s snoring no longer keeps me up at night.
All wellness related content on Intentfully FiT is provided for general information and conversation only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your own physician or any other healthcare professional or medical practitioner. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional treatment, diagnosis, or medical advice, and should never be relied upon for specific medical recommendations.
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