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What are the dangers of hearing loss?

Being able to hear well again greatly improves the quality of lives.
Being able to hear well again greatly improves the quality of lives.
Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Everyone depends upon good hearing for protection from dangers, which might include:

  1. An emergency vehicle, siren wailing, that is speeding toward a busy intersection.
  2. A tornado that is approaching a town, the people of which are being warned by a tornado siren.
  3. A house fire that is activating a smoke detector.

Not being able to hear these warning sounds quickly enough can result in injury, disability, or death.

One surprising danger of hearing loss, according to a Johns Hopkins study, is the increased danger of falls. Especially in listening environments with high background noise or poor acoustics, the person with hearing loss becomes mentally fatigued while trying to follow what is being said. This mental fatigue then compromises the balance and gait of the person with the hearing loss.

Another study was of adults who had suffered hearing loss and had not worn hearing aids. They were significantly more likely to report feelings of sadness and depression.

Still another study found that the risk of developing dementia was two to five times greater in those with uncorrected hearing loss. Hearing loss can cause social isolation, which can increase the risk of developing dementia or depression.

Hearing loss can affect more than the people with the hearing loss. Not hearing a cry for help from a child, spouse, or neighbor could mean the difference between life and death for that person.

Most people hesitate to wear a hearing aid because it makes them feel old. Some hearing loss, however, actually starts in our late 20’s or early 30’s. By the age of 70, half of us will have a diagnosable hearing loss. In spite of these facts , only two of every five adults over age 65 with hearing loss has used hearing aids.

There are informal ways for you to recognize the dangers of a hearing loss. Examples include:

  1. Complaints from others that you keep the television volume too high.
  2. Requests from you for others to repeat what they said.
  3. Trouble by you in following conversations.

If you suspect you have a hearing loss, you should see an audiologist to test your hearing. You can find an audiologist near you by going to the Academy of Audiology web site.

Some of the more modern hearing aids are invisible. As the large group of baby boomers continue to age, however, visible hearing aids will become more and more common.