We once considered mild-to-moderate hearing loss an unfortunate condition that might make conversation a little more complicated but would ultimately have little consequences outside of mild frustration. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown the situation to be more complicated, with hearing loss tied to various adverse social and health outcomes.
Not enough people treat their hearing loss.
According to the British Academy of Audiology, only roughly 2 million individuals in the UK actually use hearing aids, even though 6.7 million may benefit from them. When people first start experiencing hearing difficulties, it usually takes them seven years before they decide to get help. Most people undertake a revolving process of frustration and adjustment as hearing loss progresses until it reaches a point when hearing aids seem like the only option.
Unfortunately, this lack of treatment allows changes in the brain that make treating hearing loss much more of an adjustment, requiring retraining in speech comprehension. Furthermore, the years of frustration can be avoided with earlier adoption of hearing aids.
Better hearing makes for better relationships.
The trend we see amongst those with untreated hearing loss is a general pulling away from social functions, which makes friendships suffer. At home with partners or loved ones, hearing loss also makes communication more difficult. Couples in which one partner suffers from hearing loss tend to communicate less as it becomes more difficult. This strains the relationship as the thousands of ways we communicate throughout the day slowly disappear.
You see, it’s not just that it becomes harder to make plans or discuss significant, essential events. Intimacy requires being “in tune” with one another. Think back on your current or former relationship, and you’ll remember general impressions like the look on your partner’s face and the moods you might see them cycle through. These impressions were built on tiny moments of communication that happened so effortlessly that most of them go unnoticed. When we can’t communicate clearly with our partners and loved ones, a disconnect can widen over time.
We can stay in the conversation by treating hearing loss with hearing aids and keep the banter going through the years. This is not just a theoretical possibility but has been confirmed by countless people who have gotten hearing aids. Both parties (the partner with normal hearing and the partner with hearing loss) often remark that hearing aids greatly improve their relationship.
Both partners suffer when one has untreated hearing loss.
Even with a very understanding partner, those with untreated hearing loss report feeling disconnected because their partner may not realize how difficult background noise can make it to understand speech or how exhausting it is to carry on a conversation when you can’t hear the other person. It’s like having a bad phone connection all the time!
And the partners with normal hearing mention how it’s frustrating not to be able to visit their favourite places because of background noise or how frustrating it can be to need to repeat much of what they say.
Hearing aids can help.
A good set of hearing aids fitted by a dedicated hearing professional can restore the connection, meaning that you can participate in conversation almost as quickly as you did before hearing loss became an issue.
Hearing aids are smaller and smarter than ever, with computer DSP (digital signal processing) that can reduce background noise and improve directionality. Some models that perform these functions purport to improve speech intelligibility to better than normal!
If you also suffer from tinnitus, as many of us with hearing loss do, today’s hearing aids can provide masking tones in inaudible frequency bands, so the tinnitus is relieved without adding additional noise.
They can also integrate Bluetooth and car audio systems to improve hearing on the go, and telecoils can drastically improve the experience at movie theatres, museums, and more. Many models can be adjusted with smartphones or key fobs, so you don’t need to pull them out or have exposed knobs available to change the program for different environments.
Don’t let your loved ones or yourself suffer because of untreated hearing loss. Make an appointment for a hearing test today and see what hearing aids can do to improve your relationships and life!