According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Furthermore, roughly 10 percent of the U.S. adult population, or about 25 million Americans, has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.
If you are among the millions of Americans who perceive difficulty hearing or understanding conversational speech or have experienced tinnitus, it might be time to get your hearing checked. Hearing loss and tinnitus are sometimes symptoms associated with medical conditions that may need treatment, so it's important to get a hearing health check up if you're experiencing tinnitus or difficulty hearing. An Audiologist can perform a thorough hearing evaluation and refer you to a physician if necessary.
Additionally, both hearing loss and tinnitus can make communication difficult which often leads individuals to limit the activities they participate in. Research has shown social isolation due to communication difficulties can lead to a poorer quality of life, depression, and even cognitive decline. Social isolation is a known risk factor for dementia, so staying connected with friends and family is important for older adults for many reasons.
Hearing loss taxes the brain in ways you may not realize. When someone has a hearing loss, they must work harder to hear and understand than individuals with normal hearing. When your brain is working overtime to understand speech this is often at the expense of memory. Essentially, to maintain optimal understanding the individual with hearing loss must allocate more “brain power” to the task of listening. Since cognitive resources are not unlimited, this means these individuals have fewer cognitive resources available for other tasks, such as visual processing or memorization. This can lead to what we call “listening fatigue” and can leave individuals with hearing loss feeling completely exhausted after communicating.
I find the reason many adults avoid getting their hearing checked is they feel the Audiologist will pressure them into purchasing hearing aids. As Audiologists, one aspect of our job is to diagnose and treat hearing loss, and at this time hearing aids are the primary treatment for most types of hearing loss. While I can’t speak for all Audiologists, I can say the majority of us discuss hearing aids as an option because we truly feel a patient would benefit from them. However, it is within your right to get a second opinion if you are unsure about the diagnosis or treatment plan proposed by an Audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.
So if you're worried an Audiologist might say you need hearing aids, please don't avoid having a hearing test for that reason alone. If we recommend hearing aids it is only because we genuinely care about your hearing health.
If you need help finding a trustworthy professional to work with, here are some resources: