Hearing loss is often dismissed as an inconsequential part of aging. As a result, many people wait years to seek solutions. On average, it takes a person seven years to get fitted for hearing aids after noticing a hearing loss. Of the adults aged 20 to 69 who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, fewer than one in four have ever used them.
If you’re thinking of holding off on hearing aids until your hearing gets worse, you may want to think again. Research shows the longer you wait, the harder it can be to treat hearing loss. Thankfully, today’s technology makes it easier than ever to detect hearing loss and find effective solutions. Timely treatment doesn’t just improve hearing—it can also have tremendous impacts on health, wellness and overall quality of life.
When should you get a hearing aid?
The earlier you can detect and treat hearing loss, the better, and getting timely treatment starts with paying attention to the signs. Early signs of hearing loss are often subtle, which can make them difficult to notice. On the other hand, you might know you’ve been having some trouble hearing, but may not think it’s serious enough to take action.
Though it can be tempting to wait, especially if you feel you’re managing it, chances are your hearing problems are affecting you more than you realize. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
At home: Everyone’s crowded around the TV on movie night, but after you adjust the volume, your family complains it’s too loud. It’s hard for you to hear once they turn it down, so you end up reading the subtitles to follow along.
At a restaurant: As your server lists off the specials, you struggle to focus on her voice over the jumble of background noises and ask her to repeat herself several times.
At the office: You’re straining to understand a colleague sitting a few feet away from you during a team meeting, but you nod along anyway—even though you didn’t quite catch what was said.
If you’ve experienced these symptoms of hearing loss, you could benefit from getting hearing aids. Consider scheduling an appointment with a hearing instrument specialist, who can help determine the degree of hearing loss and whether hearing aids could help.
Here are some other early signs of hearing loss to look out for:
- Muffling of speech and other sounds
- Trouble hearing certain consonants
- Frequently asking others to repeat, speak up or speak more slowly
- Exhaustion or headaches from straining to hear
- Difficulty understanding words, especially in crowded settings or against background noise
- Difficulty hearing women, children or high-pitched sounds
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
What happens when hearing loss goes untreated?
The longer you wait to treat hearing loss, the more difficult treatment can become.
Why is that? Keep in mind that you technically hear with your brain, not your ears. Untreated hearing loss may eventually lead to changes in the brain. As hearing worsens and the hearing nerves are deprived of sound, the brain’s hearing centers weaken and lose the ability to detect missing sounds—a phenomenon known as auditory deprivation. In other words, the brain can “forget” how to recognize certain sounds over time.
You’ve probably heard the saying “use it or lose it.” This concept applies to hearing as much as any other ability. Just as we exercise our muscles, it’s crucial to “exercise” our hearing to keep it functioning properly. Wearing hearing aids helps to exercise the brain’s hearing centers so it maintains its ability to detect and distinguish sounds. Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, the brain may need time to relearn the sounds it has been missing—and that’s where hearing aids become especially beneficial. The sooner you start to wear them, the easier it will be to retrain your hearing.
My hearing loss is mild. Do I need a hearing aid?
Though each individual’s hearing loss is different, people with mild hearing loss often perceive sound loud enough but have trouble understanding certain sounds. Consonant sounds such as “th,” “sh,” “f” or “p” may get lost during conversation, making it hard to comprehend and distinguish between words (for example, “thought” may sound like “fought”). As explained above, the prolonged loss of these sounds eventually leaves the brain less able to understand speech. Addressing a hearing loss when it is mild, however, gives you an even higher chance of successful rehabilitation with hearing aids.
Since you won’t require the most powerful amplification devices, you’ll have a wider range of models and features to choose from. Certain hearing aid devices are specifically designed for mild hearing loss. You may have the option of wearing the smallest and most discreet styles, such as Miracle-Ear’s nearly invisible Mirage IIC.
Beyond hearing: other benefits of hearing aids
Did you know the benefits of hearing aids extend beyond improved hearing? From safety to sharper memory, here are some of the many ways hearing aids can drastically improve quality of life.
Improved social and emotional well-being. People with untreated hearing loss often find it difficult to fully engage with others, leading to feelings of isolation and detachment. Hearing aids help by significantly improving listening and speech comprehension and relieving the frustration and fatigue of constantly struggling to hear, making it easier to understand and engage in meaningful interactions. High-tech features, such as Miracle-Ear’s Speech Isolation technology, work to reduce unwanted background noise and focus on the direction of the target speaker for better one-on-one conversations. More social interaction helps restore a sense of connection and joy in people’s lives, leading to higher self-esteem and emotional well-being.
Better job performance and salary. Hearing aids can help you maintain productivity, accuracy and effective communication at work. Though untreated hearing loss is known to have adverse effects on job performance and income, simply wearing hearing aids has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of income loss: by 90 to 100 percent for those with mild hearing loss, and by 65 to 77 percent for those with moderate to severe hearing loss.
Slowed cognitive decline and reduced risk of dementia. Research shows that hearing aids can help keep the brain sharp. One study that tracked about 2,000 adults before and after they began using hearing aids found the rate of cognitive decline slowed by 75 percent after the adoption of hearing aids.
Better balance and reduced risk of falling. Hearing and balance are closely linked, and even mild hearing loss can triple your risk of falling. Luckily, hearing aids keep you in tune with your surroundings to improve balance and lower the risk of accidental falls.
Deeper connections with family and friends. Healthy communication is an essential part of any loving relationship. But when one person in a relationship has hearing loss, it can be stressful for both. Wearing hearing aids helps to ease those burdens and strengthen relationships by removing communication barriers. Features such as Bluetooth® connectivity allow you to stream phone calls and video chat audio directly to your hearing aids, making it easier to stay connected with loved ones wherever you are.
At Miracle-Ear, we pride ourselves on sharing expertise and building relationships with customers. Starting your journey to better hearing is a life-changing decision, and it helps to have professional guidance and support along the way. If you schedule a hearing evaluation, one of our skilled hearing care providers will test your hearing and give you resources to find the best possible solution.