Got a hearing problem? Don’t live in denial
According to the National Center for Health Statistics in the United States, Americans wait an average of six years from the first signs of hearing loss before getting treatment. And people with hearing loss aged between 20 and 69 are half as likely as those 70 or older to use hearing aids.
That was part of a presentation given to the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention last August by Dr David Myers, a professor of psychology and textbook writer who also lives with hearing loss himself.
Besides denial, he said vanity and less awareness of how much they are missing – you don’t know what you don’t know – are some of the reasons for the delay.
Risks in delaying treatment
But Dr Myers’ main message was that there are significant risks associated with delaying hearing treatment.
He presented the findings of a study undertaken by the National Council on Aging in the US which found that people who have long term hearing problems, and who don’t use a hearing aid, are at a significantly increased risk of a range of health and social problems including depression, anxiety, social isolation, and even dementia.
“Many hard of hearing people battle silently with their invisible hearing difficulties, straining to stay connected to the world around them, reluctant to seek help,” Dr Myers told the convention.
Dr Myers said the National Council on Aging study of 2,304 people with hearing loss found that the people who didn’t wear hearing aids were 50 per cent more likely to suffer from sadness or depression than people who did wear them.
On the flip side, people who did use hearing aids were much more likely to participate regularly in social activities.
“Anger, frustration, depression and anxiety are all common among people who find themselves hard of hearing,” Dr Myers said. “Getting people to use the latest in hearing aid technology can help them regain control of their life and achieve emotional stability and even better cognitive functioning.”
Myers cited another study published in the Archives of Neurology that found hearing loss could also be a risk factor for dementia.
Scientists who conducted the study said years of sensory loss leaves people more susceptible to dementia. Additionally, the social isolation common among the hard of hearing is another known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders, he said.
Bad press for Australian hearing tests
If you know you have some hearing problems and you are in denial, your enthusiasm would not have been helped by the press stories last year concerning the high cost of hearing aids in Australia and the alleged routine practice of audiologists – positioned as independent health professionals – receiving commissions on their sales [see links below].
For the record, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – the ACCC – is investigating these allegations but is yet to report.
In the meantime, if research like this prompts you to make an appointment to get a hearing test, you might like to take a look at Choice magazine’s buying guide for hearing aids.