2010-12-31 / Columnists

Have You Heard?

The Impact Of Hearing Loss In Quality Of Life
Commentary By Shirley Pollak, Au.D

The number one reason why people purchase their first hearing aids is they recognize their hearing has worsened. The second reason is pressure from family members who are negatively impacted by the individuals’ hearing loss.

As you know by now, hearing loss occurs gradually. By the time you recognize a need for hearing aids, your quality of life may have deteriorated unnecessarily.

The average age of first-time hearing aid wearers is close to 70-years-of-age, despite the fact that the majority (65 percent) of people with hearing loss are below the age of 65; and nearly half of all people with hearing loss are below the age of 55.

For the vast majority of individuals who have decided to wait to purchase hearing aids, although they may be aware their hearing loss has deteriorated, they delay hearing aid purchases with the excuses: “My hearing loss is not bad enough yet”; “I can get by without them”; “My hearing loss is mild.”

A large number of people wait 15 years or more from the point when they first recognize they have a hearing loss to when they purchase their first hearing aids.

This is a tragedy since they might not be aware of the impact this delayed decision has had on their life, and the lives of their family and associates.

There are significant social, psychological, cognitive and health effects of hearing loss.

Impaired hearing results in distorted or incomplete communication leading to greater isolation and withdrawal.

In turn, the individual’s life space and social life becomes restricted. It is logical to think that a constricted lifestyle would negatively impact the psychosocial well-being of people with hearing loss.

Research indicates that hearing loss is associated with:
• embarrassment
• fatigue
• irritability, tension and stress
• anger
• avoidance of social activities and
withdrawal from social situations
• depression and negativism
• danger to personal safety
• rejection by others
• reduced general health
• loneliness and social isolation
• less alertness to the environment
• impaired memory and less
adaptability to learning new tasks
• reduced coping skills
• reduced overall psychological
health
For those who are still working, uncorrected hearing loss has a negative impact on overall job effectiveness, opportunity for promotion and perhaps lifelong earning power. It is clear that uncorrected hearing loss is a serious issue. An effective human being is an effective communicator and good hearing is critical to effective communication.

Modern hearing aids improve speech intelligibility and therefore communication.

The benefits of hearing aids have been demonstrated in scientific re-search.

If speech understanding could be improved by correcting for impaired hearing, then improvements in the social, emotional, psychological and physical functioning of the person with the hearing loss must follow.

As the degree of hearing loss increases, people are more likely to overcompensate for hearing loss by pretending that they heard what people said, by avoiding telling people to repeat themselves, by avoiding asking other people to help them with their hearing problem, by compensating with lip reading, or by defensively talking too much to cover up the fact that they can not hear well.

The greater the hearing loss, the greater the likelihood that those with more serious hearing losses are accused of hearing only what they wanted to hear, found themselves the subject of conversation behind their backs, were told to “forget it” when frustrated family members were not heard the first time, and so on. In addition, concerns of safety (cannot hear warning signs, instructions from doctor, made a serious mistake, not safe to be alone) are not to be taken lightly.

Hearing loss is a treatable problem. Speak with your doctor about hearing loss today.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be having a problem with his or her hearing, please call Dr. Shirley Pollak at Rockaway Audiology and Hearing Aid Center for advice or a consultation.

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