Aging is the greatest indicator of hearing loss. Older adults disproportionately experience impaired hearing, a condition that impacts over 48 million people. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 1 in every 3 adults who are between the ages of 65 – 74 have hearing loss. This increases to 1 in 2 adults who are 75 and older. This highlights that a substantial portion of aging adults will experience hearing loss, the third most common chronic condition that people experience today.
Though it is a pervasive health issue, age-related hearing loss is often untreated. It often takes someone an average of 7 years from the onset of symptoms before seeking treatment for hearing loss. Recognizing the signs of hearing loss and seeking treatment as early as possible can significantly support your transition into better hearing health.
Scope of Untreated Age Related Hearing Loss
The NIH estimates that only a third of people who could benefit from hearing loss treatment actually receive it. More research shows widespread inaction on hearing loss. This includes a recent study conducted by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Researchers examined the scope of untreated hearing loss by polling a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,500 adults. Key findings include:
- 2 in 10 adults have had a hearing test in the past 5 years, compared to 6 in 10 adults who have had their vision tested.
- More than 51% of people reported hearing issues but only 11% have sought treatment.
- 78% of those with hearing issues have been experiencing these challenges for 1 or more years, and over 35% have had trouble for 5 or more years.
These statistics highlight how common it is to not address hearing challenges. There are several reasons that contribute to this delay in treatment which is important to understand and address.
Why is Hearing Loss Undertreated?
There are several factors that contribute to the delay in hearing loss treatment. Hearing loss typically happens gradually, over a longer period of time. So it can take people quite some time to notice changes to their hearing health. Additionally, a few common reasons are:
- Stigma: there is still widespread stigma associated with hearing loss. People may feel embarrassed by hearing loss which can make it challenging to acknowledge. Also, when people imagine hearing aids, they often think of bulky and all too noticeable devices that are outdated which contributes to the stigma. But hearing aids have experienced significant innovation and are actually much sleeker and varied than you expect.
- Misconceptions: there are numerous misconceptions about hearing loss that also prevent people from seeking treatment early. This includes that hearing loss is not a serious condition, there is a cure, and it is something that can be resolved later. But hearing loss is actually a permanent medical condition that impacts various facets of daily life. The longer treatment is delayed, the greater the impairment can become which can contribute to further health conditions.
Acknowledging hearing loss can be tough but with the incredible amount of resources and services available today, treatment is accessible and transformative.
Recognizing Early Signs
Being able to recognize early signs of hearing loss can help you identify changes to hearing health. Common symptoms include:
- Sounds are slurred or muffled
- Difficulties hearing in environments with background noise
- Asking others to repeat something they’ve said
- Needing to increase the volume on electronic devices like the television or your smartphone
- Missing words or parts of a conversation
- Lip reading, pretending to hear, nodding and going along
- Stronger hearing ability in one ear compared to the other
- Trouble identifying individual words because they blur together
These symptoms can be mild or more profound depending on the degree of hearing loss present. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it is important to have your hearing assessed.
The great news is that seeking treatment for hearing loss involves a simple process. The first step is to have your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist, like an audiologist. Our team of experts provide individualized care, expertise, and comprehensive services that identify your specific hearing needs. This informs tailored treatment options that meet your needs and enhance your hearing health and overall wellness. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.