Undertreated & Undiagnosed: Age-Related Hearing Loss

Undertreated & Undiagnosed: Age-Related Hearing Loss

Did you know that half of all adults 75 and older live with some degree of hearing loss? Hearing loss is the third most pervasive medical condition that older adults experience. Impacting over 48 million people, 1 in 3 adults 65-74 have hearing loss as well. You likely know someone who has impaired hearing and they might not even know it. Though hearing loss is common, it is also widely undertreated. It is estimated that only one third of people who could benefit from treatment receive it. Why is hearing loss so underdiagnosed when the impact is significant? 

How undertreated is hearing loss?

It takes an average of 7 years for people to address hearing loss symptoms. This delay in treatment for hearing loss is common. To study the lack of or delayed treatment, the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association recently conducted and published a survey.  Researchers polled nearly 2,500 adults and discovered that: 

  • While only 2 in 10 adults have had their hearing checked in the last 5 years, 6 in 10 adults who have had their vision evaluated. 
  • More than 51% of people reported experiencing hearing issues but only 11% of those people have actually sought out treatment. 
  • 78% of people with hearing issues have been experiencing them for 1 or more years, and over 35% have experienced hearing challenges for 5 or more years. 

These findings reveal widespread inaction when it comes to hearing loss. Not only do people not have their hearing assessed as much as other aspects of their health but also, it is common to live with unaddressed symptoms for long periods of time. 

Why is age related hearing loss underdiagnosed?

Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so it can remain overlooked for quite some time. Because it usually happens slowly, people may not realize that they are in fact experiencing symptoms of hearing loss. There are a few additional reasons that help us understand why there tends to be a delay in treatment: 

  • Stigma: there is still stigma associated with hearing loss. People may feel stressed or overwhelmed by changes they are experiencing to their hearing health. Because such a common misconception is that hearing loss only impacts older adults, people tend to feel embarrassed and may want to hide their hearing loss. 
  • Misconceptions: in addition to only older adults experiencing hearing loss, there are numerous misconceptions that contribute to people not seeking treatment. This includes that hearing loss is not  a serious medical condition, you can wait until it gets worse to deal with it, and there is a cure. These misconceptions ignore the seriousness of hearing loss and the multifaceted effects symptoms can have on everyday life. 

Untreated hearing loss often leads to social withdrawal, strains relationships, impacts social life, as well as increases health risks. Extensive research shows that untreated hearing loss increases the risk of cognitive decline and depressive symptoms. It is important to intervene as early as possible which can prevent these potential outcomes. 

What are the signs to look for?

Knowing the symptoms of hearing loss can help you better recognize signs and intervene early. A few signs include: 

  • Sounds are slurred or distorted. 
  • Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing like noise in the ears. 
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves or speak louder. 
  • Finding yourself struggling to keep up with conversations and following everything being said. 
  • Lip reading to help identify words. 
  • Pretending to hear, missing words, experiencing miscommunication. 
  • Increasing the volume on electronic devices like the TV or phone. 

These symptoms can be mild to more profound. Hearing loss symptoms strain communication, making it challenging to engage in conversations. This often leads to social withdrawal, impacts relationships as well as social life. 

How do I seek treatment?

Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources, services, and treatment options available. The first step you can take to prioritize your hearing health is scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacities in each ear. Once your hearing needs are identified, your hearing healthcare producer is able to recommend solutions that can meet your hearing needs. Treating hearing loss not only transforms hearing health but also relationships, health, and overall wellness. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation!