Hearing loss is the third most common health condition in the United States, with 1 in 3 people affected by it between the ages of 65-74. By the time you are 75 and older, you have a 50% likelihood of having some form of hearing loss! With hearing loss increasing in such alarming numbers, it is important to learn more about how it affects us.
Our brain is a miraculous thing; it helps us make sense of the world we live in. However, with limited auditory information heading its way due to hearing loss, it begins to reassign information to new neural pathways, thanks to neuroplasticity. Over time, this can lead to problems in understanding speech sounds and hamper communication.
The problem with the brain reprogramming itself is that your ears may end up becoming obsolete. Since your brain is so used to getting limited sound signals from the ears, this acceptance may actually weaken the brain’s ability to process sound signals. Over time, this can result in cognitive deterioration and even dementia.
A study by the National Institute of Aging found that elderly people with damaged hearing had a higher likelihood of developing dementia compared to those with no hearing loss. In fact, the worse the hearing loss, the higher the chances are of cognitive decline in that person.
Hearing loss is unfortunately an irreversible condition. Thankfully, we can take steps to prevent it while we still possess it. You can do this by being mindful of the amount of noise you expose yourself to each day. This includes music and television noises. Limit your exposure to one hour at a time, at no more than 60% of the maximum volume on any electronic audio device. Always wear ear plugs before exposing yourself to noisy environments outside, such as concerts and sporting events.
Loss of hearing is a gradual process, which is why it can take several years before a person even realizes that there is something wrong with their hearing. It can take a person anywhere between 6 to 10 years before they actually seek help for their hearing loss. By this time, much of the damage becomes irreversible and hearing aids become the only treatment option.
You can do yourself a huge favor by taking good care of your ears, practicing safe listening habits, and getting a hearing screening done once a year from the age of 50. This way you will be able to detect any early signs of hearing loss and seek timely treatment. Early treatment provides the most effective results when it comes to hearing loss.
It may come as a surprise that only 25% of those who can benefit from using hearing aids actually get them! Be part of the 25% if you wish to refrain from suffering from dire consequences such as dementia in the future. With increased awareness and the widespread benefits of hearing aids, we can hope that this percentage will increase in the future. Hearing loss is nothing to be ashamed of, but it sure would be a shame to lose your cognitive skills simply because of lack of timely treatment. Talk to your audiologist today about getting a hearing examination and hearing aids to suit your unique hearing needs.
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