Typically, hearing loss is a very slow and gradual process; one in which the listener may not even realize a hearing loss is present. Some people think their doctor would have told them is they had hearing loss, but only about 14% of doctors routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. The audiologists and hearing specialists at Arkansas Otolaryngology Center always recommend having your hearing tested routinely at our Hearing Center. You may not think you need your hearing tested, or don’t realize you do—our hearing specialists in Little Rock talk about myths with hearing loss (and why you might need hearing aids).
Myth: Only old people have hearing loss Fact: About 48 million people in the U.S. suffer from hearing loss; about ⅔ are under 65. One of the biggest signs that someone may have a hearing loss is constantly asking for repetition in a conversation or blaming others for “mumbling” or not speaking clearly enough. This symptom of hearing loss is one of the most detrimental. Constantly asking for repetition is frustrating for everyone involved in a conversation and can lead to one of two things: (1) The person may stop asking for repetition all together out of embarrassment and choose to remove themself from the conversation because it’s “not worth it” or (2) Other people begin to cut that person out of conversations so they don’t have to worry about having to repeat themselves. Both situations lead to loneliness, frustration, and isolation for the person with the hearing loss. Social withdrawal and isolation are some of the leading side effects of hearing loss, in addition to diminished cognitive function and poorer mental health. Hearing loss is far more than just “not hearing”; it is a health, safety, and quality of life issue.
Myth: Hearing loss doesn’t affect the rest of my health. Fact: An untreated hearing loss increases the risk of dementia, falls, social isolation, and depression. When you are listening to someone speak, your brain is actively working to process the sound being heard so that you can understand it. A listener with an untreated hearing loss is trying to process degraded speech signals. This causes the brain to have to work harder to process those sounds. While the brain is trying to complete this complex task, other cognitive functions such as memory and comprehension can be negatively affected. A study conducted out of John’s Hopkins University Hospital showed that the risk of cognitive decline is 41% greater for those with a hearing loss. Furthermore, people with a mild hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia, those with a moderate hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia, those with a moderate hearing loss were three times as likely, and those with a severe hearing loss were five times as likely to develop dementia when compared to those with normal hearing. Studies have also shown actual physical changes to the brain, specifically shrinking of certain areas that are typically stimulated by auditory signals, in individuals that live with an untreated hearing loss as compared to those with normal hearing.
Myth: Hearing loss is normal for my age Fact: Hearing loss typically declines with age, but no hearing loss is normal. It is not normal to leave hearing loss untreated. Hearing aids help process incoming sound, making it easier for your brain to understand them. Additional benefits of hearing aids include reduced mental fatigue, decreased feelings of social isolation and depression, improved ability to do several things at once, improved memory, attention, and focus, as well as improved communication skills. While hearing aids are the most optimal option for treating those with hearing loss, hearing aids are not necessarily the best option for everyone. There are many options out there that can help remediate communication difficulties and assist in slowing down the development or progression of dementia.
If you or someone you know is struggling with hearing or experiencing any ear related issues, please visit any location for Arkansas Otolaryngology Center. We will be sure to find the best solution for you and your needs. Schedule your appointment today!