May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, started by The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to raise awareness of communication disorders and hearing health. As audiologists, those topics are always top of mind, but we know that people with hearing loss often wait an average of 7 years before seeking treatment.
When left untreated, hearing loss has been linked to a number of other health problems, including social isolation and depression, cognitive decline, and increased stress levels. A 12-year study found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk, moderate loss tripled risk, and and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.
In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month, educate yourself and your loved ones about hearing and speech wellness. Here’s how:
1. Schedule a hearing evaluation:
48 million Americans experience significant hearing loss, and it’s especially prevalent in older demographics (nearly half of people older than age 75 and approximately one third of those ages 64 to 75 have a hearing loss). For that reason, we recommend that everyone over age 55 receive a hearing evaluation to establish a baseline hearing level and to address any untreated hearing loss before it has a larger impact on other areas of life. Make it a priority to get these evaluations scheduled during the month of May.
2. Consider the benefits of hearing aids:
Today’s hearing aids aren’t your dad or grandma’s hearing aids of the past. They’re discrete and some are even equipped with technology that allows users to stream phone calls and other audio directly to their hearing aids, using an app to adjust the volume, switch programs, and check the battery level. Many people who experience hearing loss in later years can benefit from hearing aids, which have even been shown to improve memory.
3. Protect your ears from loud noises:
Whether you’ve already had a hearing evaluation or are waiting for your appointment, you can make a notable impact on your long-term hearing health by being aware of and taking proper precautions around loud noises. A single, one-time loud noise can damage hearing, but so can noise at lower levels over time. To prevent lasting damage, wear earplugs when operating equipment like lawnmowers, roll up your car windows if you’re sitting in loud traffic, and limit your exposure to loud music.
4. Be supportive and spread the word:
We all know a loved one or friend who seems to have a harder time hearing. Whether they’re always turning up the volume on the TV or consistently asking others to repeat themselves, hearing loss should not be laughed off or left untreated. Encourage your loved ones who are 55+ to schedule a hearing evaluation.