Why is there such a stigma about hearing loss? Are hearing aids taboo? One in 3 people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from presbycusis; the slow loss of hearing as we age. The National Council on Aging suggests that those who do not wear hearing aids are 50% more likely to experience depression, anxiety, paranoia and balance issues and less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids. A new research from Johns Hopkins University shows that hearing loss may increase your risk of developing dementia. Several studies have shown that those with untreated hearing loss are 3 times more likely to suffer falls than those without.
So why are there such a low percentage of seniors being tested? The average amount of time between noticing hearing loss and seeking treatment is 10 years. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) believes that the cost of hearing aids is one factor. Medicare will pay for the testing but will not pay for the hearing aids. The HLAA has a list of financial resources and organizations on their website that can help. Other reasons for lack of hearing testing are denial and believing that it is normal to lose hearing as you age. Some people have tried hearing aids and said they didn’t help. Hearing aids are called “aids” because they help-they don’t cure. They help retrain your brain to pick up the sounds that hearing loss has conditioned the brain to miss. Getting your hearing aids to work for you instead of the other way around is a process. Hearing aid technology changes as rapidly as any other technology out there so it is important to keep up to date with newer and better devices.
Aging is not the only reason for hearing loss. Medications known as ototoxic medication can damage the ear, cause tinnitus (ringing in the ear), or balance disorders. In fact there are more than 200 known ototoxic medication on the market today. Many of these medications are over the counter including ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin. Loop diuretics are also known to affect hearing loss. Examples of some loop diuretics are Lasix (furosemide), Bumex (bumetanide) and Demadex (torsemide) these medications are usually prescribed from your doctor for heart failure or kidney problems. If you take any medications and have a ringing or buzzing in your ears, dizziness, or loud noises are painful contact your doctor immediately. Most of the time medications that cause hearing loss can be reversed when the drug therapy is discontinued. Hearing loss can also be caused by viral or bacterial infections, head injuries, tumors and diabetes. If you feel you are losing some hearing or if someone you love suggests your hearing is declining it is time to make that appointment. A simple medication change could be all that is needed.
If you do need hearing aids the upside is that research shows that you can improve memory, mood and balance all by correcting a hearing loss.