It is true that the signs of hearing loss often increase as people grow older, but it is not true that only old people experience hearing loss. There are nearly six million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 44 who are experiencing hearing loss.
There are many causes of hearing loss. Some of them are biological, but there are other causes of hearing loss that are environmental. These include some expected causes, such as exposure to sustained loud noises in places like work sites, as well as some perhaps surprising causes, such as frequently wearing in-ear headphones at maximum volume.
No matter the cause of hearing loss, acknowledging the reality that it is happening is extremely important for personal well-being, physical and mental. There are indeed many benefits to treating hearing loss: it can improve your mood, create better communication, and potentially lessen the effects of depression, anxieties, as well as more devastating issues such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Acknowledging and Addressing Hearing Loss
It can take a lot of mental and emotional work to adjust to a life with hearing loss, no matter what age the hearing loss began to set in at. This is why it is so important to not only acknowledge the presence of hearing loss but to disclose to other people about your hearing loss and, if necessary or desired, provide some contextualizing information about how the hearing loss came about. Perhaps most importantly, disclosing about hearing loss can have wide-ranging benefits if you disclose your hearing needs, whether that be asking people to slow down when talking or asking them to address you from one ear over the other. There are several reasons to disclose hearing loss to friends, loved ones, and coworkers.
According to Konstantina Stankovic, M.D., Ph.D., FACS—an otologic surgeon and researcher at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an associate professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School—knowing about disclosure strategies can have positive effects in other parts of your life: “We think it can be empowering for patients to know that these strategies, and especially the multipurpose disclosure strategy, are available to them.” She continues with, “Hearing loss is an invisible disability; however, asking people to slow down or face someone with hearing loss while speaking may improve communication.”
The benefits of acknowledging the realities of hearing loss can improve your mental health. Untreated hearing loss is often accompanied by feelings of social isolation, anxiety, and depression, Untreated hearing loss can make it difficult to communicate in a variety of settings, and places like restaurants and cafes can make hearing even more difficult. Acknowledging and addressing your hearing loss and needs with those around you will improve your abilities to be in communication with them, and will likely make you more comfortable in spaces where you have had difficulties engaging. Acknowledging hearing loss will improve your mood and your happiness and overall wellbeing will increase.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
A big and oftentimes hard step for people with hearing loss is to acknowledge that they may need hearing assistance devices. Hearing aids aren’t only for older people, and they’re no longer the ugly, clunky, malfunction-prone devices of yesteryear. Contemporary hearing aids are technologically advanced and come in nearly invisible, in-ear varieties and inconspicuous behind-the-ear devices. Many hearing aids come with wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity capabilities, and allow you to easily adjust the volume and directional microphones to increase the range and depth of sounds you hear.
Adjusting to Life with Hearing Loss
Coming to terms with the fact that you may not hear as well as you used to can be a difficult process. Acknowledging the reality of hearing loss also means you will have to acknowledge the realities of your changing hearing capabilities, weathering bad hearing days, miscommunications, frustration, and more as you adjust to your changing hearing abilities.
There will most certainly be days when nothing seems to get across, or when you feel like you are not hearing or understanding what other people are trying to get across. There will be those days of frustrating struggles of adjusting to new hearing aids, or when you mourn the loss of an old, worn out hearing aid that you had adjusted to long ago.
Patience and perseverance will be key as you learn to manage the ups and downs of the “aftermath” of acknowledging the realities of what your hearing loss prevents you from doing, to be sure, but also as you celebrate the hearing that you do have.
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing abilities, the first step is to take a hearing test. Our team at Focus Hearing can help! Contact us to schedule a consultation and start the journey to better hearing.