Are you concerned about how well you can hear? How about a family member or friend?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone.
Hearing loss is one of the most widespread chronic conditions facing Canadians.
According to a recent Canadian Health Measures Survey, about four million people in Canada are living with hearing loss. Forty percent of adults aged 20-79 have slight hearing loss in one or both ears. That percentage rises to 78 percent for adults in the 60-79-year-old category.
While hearing aids are an effective remedy for nearly all types of hearing loss, most people wait an average of seven years before acknowledging the issue and seeking help. That’s seven years of missing certain sounds, words in conversation and reduced quality of life.
The reasons are varied, but health care professionals say some of the top factors for waiting to address hearing loss include:
- Denial and stigma: These are the most damaging barriers to seeking help, as many people suffer needlessly with progressively worsening hearing loss.
- Workarounds: Many people find it easy to compensate for hearing loss, by turning up the television set or radio, or asking speakers to repeat themselves.
- The progressive nature of hearing loss: Minor reductions in hearing build up over many years, but aren’t immediately recognized.
- Hearing loss isn’t total: Higher-frequency sounds cut out first, so low-frequency sounds can still be heard.
- Invisible disability: Hearing loss can’t be seen visually and it’s subjective; different people are sensitive to different levels of hearing acuity.
According to BetterHearing.org, people who cannot hear well often experience anxiety, insecurity, isolation and depression. This can cause them to gradually withdraw from family and friends.
Despite the prevalence of hearing loss, those who are hearing impaired worry they will be viewed as being less intelligent, less attractive or old – stereotypes around hearing loss that still exist today.
However, thanks to nearly invisible in-the-canal and brightly coloured hearing aids that exist today, more people are coming forward to ask for help. Even celebrities are speaking up about their own hearing loss to help battle stigma, including Whoopi Goldberg, Rob Lowe, Halle Berry and Jodie Foster.
Modern hearing aids are sleek, small, and utilize digital technology and software to cater to individual needs. And if costs are a concern, many ear health companies offer financing and monthly payment plans.
Perhaps the most compelling argument to take care of one’s hearing is the “use it or lose it” principle. With any level of hearing loss, a person is missing certain sounds, meaning their hearing nerve and the part of the brain that processes sound are not being stimulated. This can lead to a decreased ability to recognize speech, even when hearing is restored.
The good news is, prevention works. If you want to take care of your hearing, make sure to wear ear protection during potentially loud activities such as concerts or sporting events. Exposure to noise for even 10 minutes can cause permanent hearing loss.