While one in eight Americans shows some degree of hearing loss in both ears, the impact of hearing loss extends beyond those living with the condition. People close to us are often bearing their own burden in silence. Experts predict that there will be roughly twice as many individuals with hearing loss in the next few decades, so it’s crucial to think about how untreated hearing loss will affect not only the person who has it but also their loved ones.
Hearing Loss By The Numbers
Nearly 30 million people in the United States are affected by hearing loss right now. When their loved ones and close relationships are taken into account, the ripple effect of hearing loss becomes considerably more widespread. According to research published in 2017 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, the number of Americans aged 20 and up who have trouble hearing will increase dramatically over the next several decades. From estimates of those living with hearing loss in 2020, researchers expect a rise to 74 million by 2050. That’s quite an increase!
How Hearing Loss Appears
Congenital hearing loss is a condition that affects the sense of hearing from birth. Some people lose their hearing after suffering a stressful event. Some people have trouble hearing due to medical issues or the side effects of drugs. However, a vast majority of people acquire hearing loss as they age, either due to exposure to loud noises or to the natural aging process.
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Natural hearing loss as a result of the aging process and increased population size both contribute significantly to the predicted rise in the prevalence of hearing impairment. Currently, around 65% of adults with hearing loss will be aged 65 or over, and by 2030, that number will have risen to 67%. Because the initial warning signs of hearing loss are subtle, age-related hearing loss is often misdiagnosed and left untreated until it is too late.
How To Identify Hearing Loss
Many people miss or ignore the symptoms of gradual hearing loss. Among the most telling signals is difficulty understanding speech. It might begin to seem as though everyone you speak with is mumbling their words. In fact, this is how speech appears through the lens of hearing loss, when we lose the ability to collect and process certain frequencies. Because it is a slow and gradual loss of access to frequencies, it’s normal to miss the red flags. Sometimes unconsciously, our behaviors begin to change as adaptation to early hearing loss takes place. Social avoidance is a common coping mechanism that can quickly escalate to social isolation and a withdrawal from friends and close relationships.
Escaping The Negative Impact Of Hearing Loss
Choosing a hearing loss treatment is brave and it can help to undo the damage that untreated hearing loss can cause in your closest relationships. In a recent survey investigating the impact of hearing loss, 33 percent of respondents aged 40 and up who had hearing loss also reported that it caused marital tension. In addition, there is evidence from a growing body of research suggesting people with severe hearing loss are more likely to divorce.
Confronting Hearing Loss Makes A Difference
It’s tempting to retreat into isolation when facing a health problem, especially if you’re plagued by “why me?” thoughts. Because of the inherent difficulty in communicating, this is especially true for those with hearing loss. But it’s precisely this universal human trait to ignore a problem rather than confronting it head on that results in damaged interpersonal bonds.
Even before seeking treatment for hearing loss, acknowledging its existence is an important first step. Once we can name hearing loss as a factor in behavior, energy levels and as a hurdle we are dealing with, we can begin to make different choices.
This can extend to developing compassion with ourselves or others during the frustration of conversation, or to telling your close companions that hearing loss is something you are dealing with as you begin to seek out tools that help you communicate with others.
Hearing Aids Boost Hearing Ease
Get in touch with our team today to find out how easy it can be to intervene in hearing loss. Research has shown that people who treat hearing loss with hearing aids have lower rates of depression, more active lifestyles, and have more mobility and independence than those who won’t. If reaching an easier listening experience isn’t enough to tempt you into visiting an audiologist, think about how your hearing loss could affect your significant others and the bonds you share with them.