Nearly 1 in 10 Americans know their hearing isn't as good as it used to be, but more than half of them have never gotten their hearing checked.
The most obvious reason to get help early is that hearing problems can get worse if you ignore them. Sometimes damage can be permanent. There are tiny hairs inside your ears that send sound waves to your brain. If those hairs are damaged, they will never grow back. And if you're doing something that hurts your ears without realizing it, the sooner you find out the better. Sometimes even everyday drugs like aspirin or antibiotics can cause trouble.
If you take care of hearing problems early, the cure may be simpler and easier. For example, one of the most common problems is nerve damage. If you go to the doctor right away, you might get better just by taking pills instead of having to face surgery or hearing aids. (Also see: How to treat hearing loss.)
And there's no need to put off hearing aids. All kinds of misunderstandings keep people from getting help. The devices have come a long way in recent years. Even people with mild hearing problems can benefit from wearing them. Is one of these myths holding you back?
- There's nothing I can do to cure my hearing loss. In the past, doctors couldn't do much to help people who had trouble in one ear, who couldn't hear high-pitched sounds, or who had nerve damage. But with today's technology, nearly all of those people can make strides with hearing aids.
- Wearing hearing aids will make me look old. Missing the punch line to a joke or not paying attention can make you look far more "out of it" than wearing a hearing aid. Keeping up with the conversation is what keeps you sharp. In fact, the worse a person's hearing gets, the more likely they are to develop dementia, studies show.
- Hearing aids are bulky and ugly. Hearing aids that fit completely inside the ear canal now work for most people.
- Hearing aids make everything sound too loud. In the past, hearing aids just made all sounds louder. Today, they adjust automatically to provide enough volume for whatever you're listening to.
Hearing loss can hurt your quality of life. A large study by the National Council on Aging connected hearing loss to stress, anger, depression, loneliness, memory loss, and many other problems. The study showed it could hurt a worker's chances of earning a raise or promotion.
On the other hand, the same study showed improvements in earning power, self-esteem, social life, physical health, and almost every other area with the use of hearing aids. Learn more about the various new treatment options, including stem cell therapy for hearing loss.
Early treatment is key for children. If children can't hear well, it will affect their ability to talk, communicate, make friends, and develop normally. Babies should be tested in the hospital when they are born, or at least by the time they're a month old. If there is a problem, they need professional help as early as possible, before they are 6 months old.
Keep an eye out if your toddler has lots of ear infections. Although hearing loss caused by ear infections is usually temporary, it can cause lasting problems if children struggle while they're learning critical skills.