“What did you say?” Frequently asking people to repeat themselves could be a sign of hearing loss. Many people with hearing loss begin to disengage from social activity, feeling more like furniture than participants. Disengaging from social activity or scooting closer to the TV is not the solution. Instead, consider a hearing aid.
Hearing aids help people reconnect with the world again. Up to 2% of adults between 45 and 54 have disabling hearing loss with 8.5% for ages 55 to 64, 25% for ages 65 to 74, and 50% for those older than 75. Hearing loss is not only a problem for seniors. One in eight people older than age 12 have hearing loss. Studies have shown men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women.
When Should I Get Hearing Aids?
The longer you wait, the harder the transition will be. Many people are tempted to put off getting hearing aids until they are significantly hindered from normal activity. Procrastinating the change causes your brain to have a more difficult time adapting to the presence of hearing aids when you do get them. As your hearing gradually fades, your brain learns to adapt. The sudden transition to hearing aids causes your brain to re-learn sounds. The process of hearing includes the sensation and the processing of information. If the blind were to regain sight, they would at first remain functionally blind as their brains learned to translate a kaleidoscope of color into an understandable picture. The same is true for hearing. Help yourself out by getting them sooner rather than later.
Getting hearing aids sooner can lower dementia risks. In seniors, untreated hearing loss has been linked to dementia. Those who put off hearing aids significantly increase their chances of developing dementia. The reasons are not yet clear, but studies have shown that hearing aids can help.
What Are Hearing Aids?
These little devices contain a microphone to pick up sound, a sound amplifier, and a speaker to transmit sound to the wearer. There are several types of hearing aids, including behind-the-ear aids and their miniature versions, in-the-ear aids, in-the-canal aids, and completely-in-the-canal aids. In other words, some are more hidden than others. Each has its benefits and may treat different kinds of hearing loss.
Analog vs. Digital Hearing Aids
There is also a difference between analog and digital hearing aids. Analog hearing aids amplify all sounds the same way. Analog hearing aids may also be programmable, as they often have microchips allowing for different settings. These may be changed by pushing a button on the hearing aid. Analog aids are gradually giving way to digital aids.
Digital hearing aids convert sound waves into digital data then produce an exact replica of the sound. These include computer chips to analyze speech and other sounds. Because digital aids can do everything analog aids can and more, many doctors only offer digital aids. With greater flexibility, digital hearing aids can be highly customized to the particular kind of hearing loss wearers have.
There are a number of causes that can contribute to hearing loss, most of which are not under our control. However, one of the biggest contributors is excessive sound. Up to 15% of Americans between ages 20 and 69 have hearing loss due to noise exposure during work or at home. Exposure to very loud noises or continuous exposure to moderately high volumes causes auditory trauma. People can prevent further hearing loss by changing their lifestyle habits. Removing yourself from environments with loud noise, wearing noise-canceling headphones, or wearing earplugs can save your ears from further damage.