According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), there are presently over 37 million Americans with hearing loss. Many of those with hearing loss are older individuals. According to the NIDCD, about a quarter of Americans between 64 and 74 have hearing loss as do more than half of those over 75.
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Many people with diminished hearing do not seek help. Their reasons can range from embarrassment about the condition to the belief that they can manage without treatment. As a result, many wait a long time before seeking help. The problem with delaying treatment is that hearing loss can cause a range of issues including negative social, cognitive and psychological effects.
Consider the following ways in which hearing loss can prove problematic:
- The Inability to Communicate Effectively
The inability to understand what others are saying can affect a person's professional relationships as well as their personal ones. Hearing loss can cause a person to misunderstand instructions or messages. At home, they may be unable to understand their family members without constant repetition and this can take a toll on relationships.
- Cognitive Diminishment
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have identified a link between hearing loss and dementia risk. According to their study, even a mild loss of hearing doubles an individual's risk of dementia when compared to someone who has normal hearing. The degree of hearing loss also affects the risk of dementia. Those with moderate hearing loss saw their risk triple while those with severe hearing loss saw their risk of developing dementia increase by 500 percent.
- Social Isolation
People with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids often do not participate in social activities. A survey by the National Council on the Aging found that among people with hearing loss, only 32 percent of those who did not use hearing aids regularly participated in social activities, compared to 42 percent among those who used hearing aids. Social isolation is associated with poor health and depression in all age groups, especially the elderly.
The good news is that hearing loss is treatable. The Better Hearing Institute states that 95 percent of Americans who have hearing loss can improve their hearing with the use of hearing aids and other assistive devices.