Hearing loss is an invisible condition. It cannot be seen by others and it often goes undetected by the person with hearing loss. When hearing is compromised, the brain goes into overdrive to fill in the missing information. Think of it as hearing on a cell phone with bad reception; you are able to keep up with the conversation based on context and topic but not because you are hearing every word.
Hearing loss is directly related to quality of life. It has been shown that untreated hearing loss leads to social isolation and early cognitive decline. Rather than trying to keep up with a conversation, it may be easier for a person with hearing impairment to sit back quietly as a passive observer. Over time this may deter someone from all social engagement because it is simply too difficult. Social isolation has also been shown to have negative effects including memory loss, depression, and anxiety.
The effects of hearing loss may not always be obvious but they are serious nonetheless. Not only does untreated hearing loss place unnecessary strain on other processes in the brain but it also impacts socioemotional well-being. Hearing deficits increase listening effort and call on other cognitive resources such as memory and attention to act as temporary substitutes for the auditory system.
There is no current medical cure for hearing loss but there are many options for managing the effects of this condition and improving hearing! Hearing aids may be a viable option to enhance auditory cues and provide better access to sound. Communication strategies can be used to manipulate the surrounding environment in a way that optimizes speech. For example, turning down the TV or walking into the same room as the speaker are two simple yet practical ways to reduce listening effort. Assistive listening devices (i.e. amplified telephone or TV Ears) may also be used alone or in conjunction with hearing aids.
Checking in with your hearing is just as important as having an annual physical. If you or someone you know may be suffering from hearing loss, seek an evaluation with an audiologist today. Don’t wait!