Roughly 20% of the population in the United States ages 12 and older has hearing loss. That number increases significantly with age.
When hearing loss goes untreated, it can lead to a harmful impact on your social, physical and mental health.
This story is part of a series presented by the Good Samaritan Society addressing hearing loss and its effects on well-being.
What causes hearing loss?
Hearing loss is caused by changes within the inner ear or the middle ear or along nerve pathways to the brain. Contributors to hearing loss include:
Exposure to loud sounds
What are hearing loss symptoms?
Since hearing loss often occurs over time, you may not realize how much your hearing ability has deteriorated. Symptoms include:
Noticing that voices sound mumbled or slurred.
Asking others to speak more loudly and clearly.
Avoiding social situations and withdrawing from conversation.
Turning up the volume of a television or radio to a higher level compared to others.
Not hearing high-pitched sounds such as musical notes, birds or voices.
Ringing in the ears.
What are some of the treatment options?
Hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive devices and training in lip reading are common treatments for hearing loss, although there are more options available. Depending on your age, overall health and the amount of hearing loss, doctors can customize treatment to best fit your needs.
What happens if hearing loss is left untreated?
Untreated hearing loss can negatively impact your well-being. Potential issues include:
An increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia because of added mental strain caused by the extra effort needed to hear and understand conversations. Research shows that the increased mental fatigue can cause cognitive abilities to decline 30–40% faster.