When is the right time to get hearing aids?
People on average wait 8.9 years from the time of realising they have a hearing loss until the time they take action. But according to a study in the Journal of Otolaryngology , people who wait 10 years have a 52% higher risk of dementia, a 41% increased chance of depression and a 29% higher risk of falls. They’re pretty convincing statistics to do something about hearing loss sooner rather than later.
Why do people wait?
Often it's because of beliefs such as...
"My hearing isn't bad enough"
"I get on just fine without hearing aids"
"I'm too young for hearing aids"
"Hearing aids will make me look old"
"Hearing aids are expensive"
"Hearing aids don't work. I know someone who got them and left them in the top drawer because they were better off without them."
But are these objections really justified?
“My hearing isn’t bad enough” or “I get on just fine without hearing aids”
You may be surprised to learn that even mild hearing loss can result in the significantly elevated negative effects relating to dementia, depression and higher risk of falls listed above.
“I’m too young for hearing aids”
Not all hearing loss is due to age-related decline; industrial noise exposure for example can significantly accelerate the rate of hearing loss. These days we’re seeing more and more people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
“Hearing aids will make me look old”
Gone are the days of big, whistling hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids are smaller and less conspicuous than ever before (even invisible). And you may be surprised to learn which stars proudly wear aids, including TV host Osher Gunsberg, former Prime Minister John Howard, actress Halle Berry, singer Chris Martin of Coldplay and former President Bill Clinton. The reality is that connecting with others can help your brain stay younger and keep you involved with life.
“Hearing aids are expensive”
Just with any technology, there are affordable entry level options right through to top-of-the line options that are priced accordingly. Our hearing professionals will provide you with the best hearing device available within your budget. When you consider the high cost of hearing loss, it’s money well spent.
“Hearing aids don’t work. I know someone who got them and left them in the top drawer because they were better off without them.”
Just because someone you know hasn’t had a good experience, don’t be deterred; not all hearing aids are created equal, they must be programmed well to match the individual’s hearing loss and if you are determined to improve your hearing, they can be life changing.
What is the cost of waiting?
Many believe their hearing troubles are a mere annoyance but research is finding many less obvious implications for untreated hearing loss, including:
1. Relationship issues
Hearing loss can be a major source of frustration in relationships, with the hearing partner constantly being asked to repeat what they have said. But a newly published study in the Hearing Review has found that the issues can run much deeper than that.The researchers suggest that the natural back and forth of conversation is interrupted, affecting connectedness, spontaneity and the sharing of observations, small talk and unexpected experiences. Hearing partners said that in order to ensure the person with hearing loss understands them correctly, they tend to filter their language. And they felt that having to repeat themselves time and time again causes them to sound annoyed when conversing with their partner. Couples indicated that communication in background noise was particularly difficult, such as restaurants, pubs, shopping centres, cars and on public transport. As a result, many of our clients report avoiding gatherings.
2. Accelerated cognitive decline
Our brains gradually shrink as we age. It’s inevitable. But this brain tissue loss occurs faster in older adults with hearing loss according to a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the American National Institute on Aging .
Analysis of MRIs from the longitudinal study revealed that those with impaired hearing experienced more than an additional cubic centimetre of brain tissue shrinkage each year compared with those with normal hearing.
Not surprisingly, the areas of the brain most affected are those responsible for processing sound and speech. Researcher Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. says “shrinkage in those areas might simply be a consequence of an ‘impoverished’ auditory cortex, which could become atrophied from lack of stimulation.”
Lin went on to give some urgency to treating hearing loss sooner rather than later, before these potential brain structural changes take place.
3. Depression and social isolation
Untreated hearing loss can result in social isolation and loneliness , which can lead to depression. This is because people tend to avoid situations where communication is more difficult, particularly in noisy environments such as restaurants, events that involve music or mingling, outings and church groups.
Those who are socially isolated have limited day to day contact with others, have few fulfilling relationships and lack a sense of belonging. Conversely, connecting with others can help your brain stay younger and keep you involved with life.
4. A whole host of other risk factors
The social isolation caused by untreated hearing loss can increase the risk for poor eating, smoking, alcohol use, lack of exercise, depression, dementia, poor sleep and heart disease.
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1. Time From Hearing Aid Candidacy to Hearing Aid Adoption: A Longitudinal Cohort Study Simpson, et.al, Medical University of South Carolina, Ear and Hearing 2018.
2. Journal of Otolaryngology
3. Tjørnhøj-Thomsen T, Henrik Philipsen H. Hearing Loss as a Social Problem: A Study of Hearing-impaired Spouses and Their Hearing Partners. Hearing Review, 2019.