The younger you are and the earlier the intervention, the longer the hearing aids can improve and maintain your quality of life.

“Family members should encourage and support their loved ones to get hearing problems diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.”

The onset and severity of hearing loss is affected by noise exposure, medication side effects, and other health conditions. The risk of hearing loss increases with age because these effects add up over time. Many people are told that, hearing loss is a normal part of aging; however, high blood pressure was once also considered a normal part of aging, and did not require treatment. There is clear evidence of the benefits of treating high blood pressure as well as hearing loss as early as possible. 

Why you should get your hearing tested

There are documented cases of patients with undiagnosed hearing loss who were mistaken for having dementia. Consider these symptoms: answering questions inappropriately, misunderstanding a meeting’s time and place, withdrawing from social situations, memory loss, and problems with abstract thinking (hearing loss forces the brain to work harder to understand speech, leaving less resources for forming memories and thinking). Therefore, a hearing test should definitely be part of the equation when dementia is suspected. 

Another reason to treat hearing loss early is the old saying, “use it or lose it.” Some people with hearing loss in both ears choose to only wear one hearing aid. 

Over time, the decreased sound stimulation from the untreated ear, can make the brain lose its ability to process sound clearly from that ear. So even if a hearing aid were added to the untreated ear several years later, speech may still not sound as clear in that ear than if earlier intervention had been present to maintain its function.

Signs you may be at risk

Most people think that only very loud sounds, such as gunshots, can cause hearing loss. In reality, even exposure to everyday sounds — such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, and lawnmowers — over long periods of time, in a cumulative fashion, can cause hearing loss. Healthcare workers in operating rooms and dental offices are at risk as the noise from drills and other equipment can cause permanent damage. 

Prevention is key. Use earplugs where possible, and if needed, there are hearing protection devices that can protect hearing without affecting the ability to communicate. Importantly, people with hearing loss may actually be at greater risk of further damage to their remaining hearing, as sounds loud enough to cause hearing harm may not seem loud to them. 

Listen to those you trust

If our vision becomes blurry, we notice immediately because the objects we can’t see clearly are tangible. Speech, however, is invisible, so those with hearing loss may not realize they have missed conversations. It’s often their family members who first notice a problem. 

To benefit from early intervention and avoid the physical, psychological, social, and emotional impacts of hearing loss, family members should encourage and support their loved ones to get hearing problems diagnosed and treated as soon as possible — and we need to remember that they truly have our best interests at heart. 

I believe the key to aging gracefully and enjoying life fully is to be proactive in taking care of our bodies­ — be it exercising more, eating better, controlling blood pressure, or treating hearing loss. See your audiologist and stay active!