As an Invisible Disability, Hearing Loss Often Goes Ignored

As an Invisible Disability, Hearing Loss Often Goes Ignored

Hearing loss can start subtly and develop over years. Because of this lack of visibility, it is easy for people to be unaware of the severity of their condition. People with hearing loss are among those whose condition is overlooked, belittled and subject to stereotypes based on widespread ignorance.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 48 million Americans have a hearing loss—this includes 17% of our adult population. Unfortunately, only 20% of those individuals who might benefit from treatment actually seek help. On average, hearing aid users wait over 10 years after their initial diagnosis to be fit with their first set of hearing aids. The more people understand the early warning signs of hearing loss and its severity if not treated the more people can learn the importance of being open about their hearing loss.

The Slow Onset of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss in adults has a number of contributing factors, including age, genetics, noise exposure, and chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and heart disease). Age-related hearing loss or presbycusis is generally a slow, progressive hearing loss that affects both ears equally. Because of this slow progression, adults with presbycusis do not readily acknowledge their hearing loss, considering it a normal sign of aging. It is common for employers and significant others to be aware of one’s hearing loss long before the individual even acknowledges it. It is this insidious nature of presbycusis that allows many adults to ignore their hearing loss for years or decades.

Know the Signs

Hearing loss can manifest in many different ways. While there are a few different types of hearing loss and many different causes, the symptoms are generally similar regardless of type or cause. Symptoms include:

  • Listening to television or radio at a high volume
  • Trouble understanding speech in noisy environments
  • The perception that others are mumbling
  • Difficulty hearing people on the phone
  • Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Exhaustion after attending social events
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears

Hearing Loss in the Workplace

Given that 12 in every 100 employees has some level of hearing loss, it’s shocking that there is such a resounding lack of awareness about how to accommodate the condition. Employers have a legal obligation to make reasonable accommodations that enable employees with disabilities, including hearing loss, to be successful in the workplace. People with hearing loss are among the 49.7 million Americans who have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is important to deal with your hearing loss and accept it as part of your life. Only then can you be open with co-workers, employers and loved ones and get the accommodations you deserve to participate equally with the rest of able people.

Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss

If left untreated, hearing loss can have other negative social and health impacts in both adults and children that go beyond the hearing impairment itself and include reduced quality of life and well-being. Potential health impacts from hearing loss can include headaches, muscle tension, and increased stress and blood pressure levels. Some studies have linked untreated hearing loss in adults to depression, fatigue, social withdrawal and impaired memory.

Benefits of Treatment

The benefits of hearing aids effects every aspect of your life from physical, mental and social improvements. Those who experience hearing loss may make a conscious choice to refrain from physical activity for fear of injuring themselves as a result of not hearing something. Remaining physically active is one of the many benefits of hearing aids. Wearing hearing aids can also prevent further cognitive decline. If you hope to stave off the possibility of dementia and excessive mental decline, hearing aids may help. Additionally, hearing aids decrease your likelihood of developing depression, help you to concentrate when you’re not struggling to hear what is going on around you, and improve your directional perception.

Seek Treatment Now

There are so many reasons to not live in denial if you suspect you are living with hearing loss. If you know you have hearing loss don’t be afraid to be open about your disability. Informing people about your hearing loss will only bring awareness to an invisible disability. Contact us at Hearing Care Centers to set up a hearing test. We can help you get the tools to live your best life.

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