January 16, 2020

The Real Cost of Hearing Loss

The Real Cost of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is often associated with frequent doctor’s visits, health insurance paperwork, and expensive equipment. What we may not immediately think about are the social and emotional tolls, mental health, or anxiety and depression. Neglecting hearing loss is costly and often has detrimental effects on other facets of your overall health.

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition—more prevalent than diabetes or cancer—that affect adults in America, and is the single most common condition for seniors. An estimated 48 million Americans are living some degree of hearing loss that negatively affects their quality of life—academically, professionally, medically, socially, or any combination of these.

Looking Back on Hearing

Dr. Mark Hammel is a psychologist in Kingston, N.Y. whose hearing was damaged by machine gun fire in his 20s when he served in the Israeli Army. He reflected on his experience with hearing loss in a recent interview. It was not until 30+ years later, in his late 50s, did he receive his first hearing aids.

“It was very joyful, but also very sad, when I contemplated how much I had missed all those years. I could hear well enough sitting face to face with someone in a quiet room, but in public, with background noise, I knew people were talking, but I had no idea what they were saying. I just stood there nodding my head and smiling.”

Dr. Hammel’s experience is unfortunately very common among many people living with disabling hearing loss. His story alludes to a nondisclosure method of socializing (not informing others of one’s hearing loss) which can often lead to isolation and depression.

“People with hearing loss often don’t realize what they’re missing,” he said. “So much of what makes us human is social contact, interaction with other human beings. When that’s cut off, it comes with a very high cost.”

Hearing Loss Can Affect You Physically

When hearing loss is left untreated, it can manifest in physical ailments. Headaches and dizziness are common side effects, often from mental fatigue because the brain has to work much harder to fulfill its role in the hearing process. Problems with diet have been reported, too, along with sleeping and even sex.

Personal safety is also an area of concern for people living with hearing loss, especially seniors, as dizziness can calls falls and serious injury. Signals of warning while in public or driving could be missed as alarms and horns are often at higher frequencies. At home, low-frequency smoke detectors and bed and pillow shakers are recommended in case of fire emergency. Strobes and other light sensors are also recommended as safety accommodations.

Conquering Stigma

In a survey conducted by the National Council on the Aging, 2,906 people with hearing impairment explained their reluctance to get a hearing aid. Two-thirds of older adults with untreated hearing loss made statements like “my hearing is not bad enough” or “I can get along without one,” and one in five people said things like “it would make me feel old” or “I don’t like what others will think about me.”

This well-documented stigma even causes people to make excuses about their hearing loss.

On the other hand, people with hearing aids were more socially active and at a lesser risk to experience depression, insecurity or paranoia. The findings of the survey were published in 1999 and funded by the trade group Hearing Industries Association, but experts say that not much has changed in the attitudes and treatment of hearing loss.

Putting Your Brain Back to Work

In a 2012 Healthy Hearing magazine, one person in three older than 60 has life-diminishing hearing loss, but most older adults wait 5 to 15 years before they seek the help of a hearing health care professional. During this time, the brain has gotten out of the habit of processing sound collected by the ear canal.

Dr. Hammel recalls, “I had lost the habit of listening. After I got the aids, it took me a long time to get back into the habit of paying attention to what people were saying.”

When hearing aids are worn for the first time, the brain must relearn to carry those messages from the cochlea to the auditory cortex located in the temporal lobe. The brain stem can then decode signals such as duration, intensity, and frequency. It is like a muscle that has atrophied.

Atlanta Hearing Doctor

Having your hearing checked at the first signs of a hearing loss prevents the hindsight regret of leaving hearing loss untreated. There is quality time with loved ones deserving of your full self; birthdays, holidays, family gatherings. You then owe it to yourself to ensure the health of your hearing for your physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. Contact us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor today to learn more!

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Take a moment to recall the last time you were part of a social activity. What are some of your memories? Not all social activities are happy and relaxing, but there’s one that that they tend to have in common: connection. When we engage in social activities we are reminded of the ways we are connected to those in our families, friendships, and communities. However, for those who haven’t had a social activity in a while, this lack of connection can be a key problem. Rather than focusing on the detriments of a lack of social activity for seniors, let’s focus on the positive benefits that seniors can receive from more social activity. Not only do they take the form of direct benefits such as feelings of connection, they also have indirect effects on your mental and physical health. After considering the wide range of benefits to be achieved from these social connections, let’s imagine the many ways it is possible to expand the range of connections.

Mental Health and Social Life

When we are connected to others, a number of effects take place in our mental health. In the first place, we are generally reminded that others share our experiences. These reminders put us in the mental space to acknowledge that we are not alone. Similarly, social connections can relieve feelings of anxiety. When we are isolated our heads can spin into feelings of confusion, fear, and mixed expectations. Being with others can be grounding, serving as a reminder of how much others are going through. Finally, social life can improve symptoms of depression. Although it can feel like the most difficult thing to socialize when we are depressed, it can have a profound positive effect on depressive symptoms to spend a little time with others.

The Physical Benefits of Social Activity

It might come as a surprise, but there are physical benefits to social activity, as well. In the first place, simply getting out of the house introduces physical activity into our daily routines. Moving through the world to social events can be remarkably beneficial for our energy levels and mobility. In addition to this direct physical effect of social life, there are other more surprising connections, including reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular problems. Add to the list that nutrition is often improved when we eat with others in social contexts. These social benefits in the realm of physical health lead us to believe that we stand to gain more that feelings of connection when we are actively social.

How to Improve Your Social Life

If you are a senior who finds your social life dwindling, there are some basic steps you can take to get connected. One of the simplest things you can do is to reconnect with old friends and family members with whom you’ve lost touch. Take a quick scroll through your address book or calendar from past years. You are likely to find people listed there with whom you can connect, and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to pick up and reconnect. Simply making a call is all it may take before you have a new lunch date or are even planning a trip with someone. Sometimes more casual connections are all it takes to feel like your social life has improved. Clubs are a great resource for these kinds of connections, and there are many organizations oriented around your favorite activities and hobbies. If you like crafts, mechanics, or political affairs, simply do a little digging and a club or organization is sure to turn up. Finally, physical activity is an excellent way to integrate all these benefits into a single activity. Take, for instance, an exercise class. With regular attendance, you are sure to reap the physical, emotional, and directly social benefits that have proven effects. When taken in combination, you will be surprised at how good you feel, and the connections tend to multiply. Why hesitate to take action toward stronger social activities? You will not regret it when you feel the support of a strong community around you once again.

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Common Excuses for Not Buying Hearing Aids
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Common Excuses for Not Buying Hearing Aids

If you suspect that your loved one is developing hearing loss, you have likely already heard one or a combination of these excuses for refusing to seek assistance. Often these excuses work in concert with one another, and the struggle to convince a family member or loved one can require logical cartwheels. Knowing some of the most common excuses can help you understand where your loved one is coming from and also to encourage solutions rather than living with limitations.

My Hearing Isn’t That Bad

Perhaps the most common response when confronted with hearing loss is the claim that hearing isn’t that bad and that a person can make do without assistance. Although many people satisfice in the context of limited hearing ability, why continue to struggle with limitations when assistance options are available? The only way to know how bad hearing ability has become is to get a hearing exam by a licensed professional. With this information in hand, you will have a sense not only how your hearing measures up to population averages but also how much you can hear relative to your own starting point.

I’m Getting Along Fine

The partner of the first excuse is the idea that a person can get along fine without hearing aids. Although some people are able to find remarkable work-arounds to complete their daily tasks, there are serious health effects associated with untreated hearing loss. Not only can hearing limitations create a physical risk, they can also lead to mental health problems, emotional burdens, and even cognitive strain. Your loved one might feel like the situation is sufficient, but just imagine how much better life might be with adequate hearing ability. Conversations can be restored to a fluid back-and-forth, information can travel freely, and the stress of not knowing if you will be able to communicate in a given situation can be relieved.

Hearing Aids Are Too Expensive

It is true that hearing aids are a serious investment in your wellbeing, but there are often solutions to make them more affordable. Some forms of insurance cover all or part of the purchase of hearing aids, and other financing options are available, as well. The bigger question might be one of priorities. Knowing that hearing assistance can restore relationships, conversations, and relieve mental anxieties, your loved one might be undervaluing their own health and wellbeing.

Hearing Aids Are Frustrating to Use

In the past, hearing aids were nascent technology with lots of bugs to work out. You may have seen someone struggling with hearing aids, trying to adjust the volume levels or cancel out squealing feedback. Others in the past found that manual dexterity issues or arthritis got in the way of inserting or removing aids. The new features of hearing aids make it possible to remedy many of these frustrating aspects in the past. Some hearing aids are connected to smartphone apps that allow you to easily change volume levels, even setting profiles for different locations or types of events. The latest hearing aids come in all shapes and sizes, making it much easier to deal with them comfortably.

Hearing Aids Don’t Work

Maybe your loved one knows someone who had a bad experience with hearing aids. Perhaps this person was unhappy with the amount of assistance received or the trouble that came along with the aids. Although hearing aids don’t promise 100% success for all users, their effectiveness is improving rapidly, and most people with hearing loss find a powerful improvement to their daily lives. The only way to know if they will give you the assistance you seek is to give hearing aids a try.Don’t let one or more of these excuses get in the way of solutions. If your loved one is hesitant to get hearing aids for these or other reasons, perhaps the first step is the simplest. Getting a hearing test is easy, quick, and painless, so why not make an appointment right away. There is no harm in understanding your current hearing ability, and this baseline exam can be helpful to track future hearing ability, as well. If you discover a need for hearing aids, your hearing health professional can assist you in taking the next steps.

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