September 24, 2020
We once thought of mild-to-moderate hearing loss as an unfortunate condition that might make conversation a little more difficult, but that would ultimately have little consequences outside of mild frustration. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown the situation to be more complicated, with hearing loss being tied to a host of negative social and health outcomes.
About 48 million Americans suffer from some type of hearing loss, but only about 16% of those people wear hearing aids. On average, it takes a person seven years from the time they notice hearing loss to when they seek treatment for it. Most people undertake a balance of frustration and adjustment as hearing loss progresses, until it reaches a point when hearing aids seem like the only option.
Unfortunately, this lack of treatment allows changes to occur in the brain that makes treating hearing loss much more of an adjustment, requiring retraining in speech comprehension. Furthermore, the years of frustration can be avoided with earlier adoption of hearing aids.
The trend we see amongst those with untreated hearing loss is a general pulling away from social functions, which makes friendships suffer. At home with partners or loved ones, hearing loss makes communication more difficult as well. Couples in which one partner suffers from hearing loss tend to communicate less as it becomes more difficult, and this strains the relationship as the thousands of ways we communicate throughout the day seem to slowly disappear.
You see, it’s not just that it becomes harder to make plans or discuss big, important events. Intimacy requires being “in tune” with one another. Think back on your relationship, and you’ll remember general impressions like the look on your partner’s face and the moods you might see them cycle through. All of these impressions were built on tiny moments of communication that happened so effortlessly that most of them go unnoticed. When we can’t communicate clearly with our partners and loved ones, there’s a disconnect that can widen over time.
By treating hearing loss with hearing aids, we can stay in the conversation and keep the banter going through the years. This is not just a theoretical possibility, but has been confirmed by countless people who have gotten hearing aids. Both parties to a couple, the partner with normal hearing and the partner with hearing loss, over and over again say that hearing aids greatly improved their relationship.
Even with a very understanding partner, those with untreated hearing loss report feeling disconnected in the sense that their partner may not realize how difficult background noise can make it to understand speech, or how exhausting it is to carry on a conversation when you can’t hear the other person clearly. It’s like having a bad phone connection all the time!
And the partners with normal hearing mention how it’s frustrating not to be able to visit favorite places because of background noise, or how frustrating it can be to need to repeat much of what they say.
A good set of hearing aids can restore hearing to near-normal, meaning that you can participate in conversation as easily as you did before hearing loss became an issue. Some models are even able to make listening to music as lifelike as it is for the unaided ear.
Hearing aids are smaller and smarter than ever, with computer DSP (digital signal processing) that can reduce background noise and improve directionality. Models that perform these functions can actually improve speech intelligibility to better than normal. If you also suffer from tinnitus, as many of us with hearing loss do, today’s hearing aids can provide masking tones in inaudible frequency bands, so the tinnitus is relieved without adding additional noise.
They can also integrate with Bluetooth and car audio systems to improve hearing on the go, and telecoils can drastically improve the experience at movie theaters, museums, and more. Many models can be adjusted with smartphones or key fobs so you don’t need to pull them out or have exposed knobs available to change the program for different environments.
Don’t let your loved ones, or yourself, suffer because of untreated hearing loss. Make an appointment for a hearing test today and see what hearing aids can do to improve your relationships and your life!