There are many benefits to treating hearing loss, but perhaps the most important one is beyond our conscious perception. In addition to the other items on your ‘Pro’ list, intervening in hearing loss with hearing aids or a cochlear implant can boost your brain health!
Many people suffer from hearing loss, but only a very small percentage actually decide to pursue treatment. One in eight Americans over the age of 12 display hearing loss in both ears and that number grows exponentially in older people. In those over 65 years of age, one third of people have hearing loss. By the time you reach 85 years old, more than 80% of your peers will demonstrate difficulty hearing.
Hearing loss treatment
Commonly, people who do decide to invest in hearing aids wait an average of 10 years before they make the commitment. And it’s a rare few who do end up seeking treatment. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that though there are nearly 30 million Americans that could benefit from using hearing aids, only around 30% have used them.
A recent survey from Clear Living, a health and wellness site, shows us that people are hesitant to even undergo a hearing test. 66% of respondents reported anxiety surrounding hearing tests, with 41% of that group explaining that they feared the results confirming medical hearing loss. Not only are we reluctant to treat hearing loss, we also shy away from even confronting the condition.
The reasons people are wary of pursuing treatment for hearing loss can range from old-fashioned stigmas around aging to cost to concerns about mechanical or product reliability. Though the investment in hearing health can be intimidating for some, the payoff of doing so is immense.
Dangers of untreated hearing loss
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to depression and feelings of isolation. We humans are social animals and connection is essential to our mental and emotional wellbeing. When communication becomes difficult, our ability to connect is inherently damaged. Relationships with family members and loved ones can become strained and people with hearing loss often withdraw from their most treasured social activities and hobbies.
But more than mental health and emotional wellbeing, our brains are fundamentally connected to our hearing.
Hearing happens in the brain
Our ears are the poster child for hearing, but much of what we perceive as our sense of hearing actually happens in the brain. Sound information is collected from our external world by our ears, and the important cells within the inner ear receive that information and transmit electrical signals to the brain via the auditory nerve. There, processing centers decode these signals and turn them into the noise and language we think of as ‘hearing.’
How the brain reacts to hearing loss
When the fine cells of the inner ear begin to deteriorate due to the natural aging process or because of damage from too-loud noise, they do not regrow. Instead, we are simply less able to receive sound information to pass onto the brain for processing. This can lead to an overtaxing of the brain, constantly trying to put together the sounds of the world around you without all the necessary information. It’s like trying to do a puzzle when you’re missing half the pieces!
Of course, the brain will then have to burn through a tremendous amount of energy to accomplish listening tasks that used to come easily. This can lead to fatigue, stress, anxiety and even dementia. Our bodies and brains become vulnerable.
Treating hearing loss can help
Now, imagine you’re doing that puzzle missing half the pieces. Twenty minutes into your frustrating pursuit, someone reveals another 30% of the pieces. Suddenly, your undertaking is much less stressful and things begin to make sense again. There’s a good chance you can complete the puzzle and even enjoy the process.
That is what intervening in hearing loss with hearing aids can feel like. Using discreet and powerful technology, today’s hearing aids do a pretty terrific job of amplifying the sounds of your external world. They can even toggle between programs so that phone calls on your smartphone integrate seamlessly. Now, your brain is receiving much more sound information and the processing centers don’t have the same sense of intense disruption as when hearing aids aren’t present.
Most hearing aid wearers report wishing they’d intervened sooner and that they’d recommend hearing aids to their friends. If you’re ready to schedule a hearing test, contact our team of hearing health professionals. We’re ready to listen to your concerns, discern your level of hearing loss and get you started on a path to better hearing health.