1. How common is hearing loss?
Almost 30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. One out of every 11 Americans have some form of hearing loss, and four out of every five people who actually need a hearing aid, do not own one. The survey of the 'National Council of the Aging' found that six out of seven Americans aged 45 to 64 suffered from hearing loss and three out of five people above the age of 65 suffered from hearing loss but did not use hearing aids.
2. How do you know if you are a candidate for hearing instruments and what are the signs of hearing loss?
Almost anyone who is experiencing difficulty with communication due to hearing loss is a candidate for hearing instruments. The good news is there are usually warning signs that there is a possible hearing loss.
3. Can hearing loss affect your mental well-being?
Yes, We all know that if you have a hearing loss, it is difficult to understand speech. What is not sufficiently appreciated is that a patient's emotional and mental state may also be affected by the erratic and disrupted communication patterns caused by hearing loss. A patient with hearing loss is four times as likely to manifest psychological disturbances than a person with normal hearing. There is also evidence that hearing loss can increase the behavioral patterns of patients with Alzheimer's, depression, anxiety, paranoia, memory loss, alertness and general ability to cope. It has been reported by the National Council on the Aging from a 1999 survey of people over 50, that those who were treated for hearing loss reported significant improvements in their quality of life and had better relationships with their families since they started wearing hearing aids. According to the survey, about 40 percent said their lives had improved in general, and that they felt better mentally and they had a higher degree of self-confidence.
4. Where should you go for help if you suspect that you or a loved one has a hearing loss?
You should go to your hearing professional, i.e., an Audiologist for a hearing test. Your hearing professional will then determine the kind of hearing loss you have and determine if you are a candidate for a hearing aid. Hearing aids vary greatly in their styles, sizes and levels of circuitry. Your hearing professional will determine which is best for you, according to your hearing test.
5. Will you need a hearing aid for each ear?
People who have hearing loss, with a few exceptions, usually have it in both ears. There are many advantages to wearing two hearing instruments, but the most compelling argument is that both ears work together to bring the sound signal to the brain. If you wear just one hearing aid, the unamplified ear may lose its ability to hear and understand speech. People who wear two hearing aids understand speech and conversation significantly better than people wearing one hearing instrument.
6. What happens if you have a hearing loss and you do not receive treatment for it?
If you have hearing loss due to damage such as noise exposure or age, the result is the brain does not get stimulated. This is called auditory deprivation. The brain is not getting stimulated by sound or is getting distorted versions of the sound due to the damage in the auditory system. There have been many studies done on auditory deprivation to determine the long-term effects on the brain. These studies suggest that if the brain is not stimulated, the potential to "forget" how to hear is great and is closely related to the length of time the brain goes without stimulation. The longer the patient goes without treatment (amplification) the more likely it is the brain will forget how to hear and understand speech even after treatment is implemented.
7. What can you do to help get used to new hearing instruments?
When you begin to wear hearing aids, you will have to re-train your brain to hear the sounds you wish to hear and ignore the sounds you don't want to hear, i.e., the hum of a refrigerator or background conversation. You will need to understand that your new hearing aids do not sound the same as your old hearing used to sound.
Don't get discouraged. You have been hearing through a damaged system that has delivered distorted signals to your brain. Now, the sounds you are being exposed to are louder and different than what you are used to. In time, your brain will adjust to the new signals it is receiving.
It is important to wear your hearing aids as much as possible to get used to them and how they work. Patience is the key. Encourage your friends and family to speak to you in a normal tone. Remember, you are not alone. There are millions of people with hearing loss, and as the baby boomers age, the numbers will only grow. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and there are many treatment options available to you in these modern days.