If you suffer from hearing loss in Charleston—and roughly 27,000 of you do, according to estimates—then chances are, you’re already familiar with hearing aids. These devices do a fantastic job helping you reconnect with friends and loved ones, allowing you to enjoy your favorite activities and helping to prevent many of the negative health effects associated with hearing loss.
Hearing Aids Offer Many Benefits
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that people aged 66 and over who were prescribed hearing aids after being diagnosed with hearing loss experienced lower risks of dementia, depression, anxiety and fall-related injuries over the next three years in contrast to patients who didn’t immediately start wearing hearing aids. The differences were telling.
Hearing aids reduce the risk of injury and mental health-related issues
- An 18 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s
- An 11 percent lower risk of a depression or anxiety diagnosis
- A 13 percent lower risk of fall-related injuries
These reduced risks translate to a higher quality of life and lower health care costs because older patients who treat their impairment with hearing aids have lower rates of physical, social and psychological health conditions associated with their hearing loss.
“Hearing loss is a potentially modifiable risk factor,” explained Elham Mahmoudi, a University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine health economist and author of the study. “A simpler system of hearing care, insurance coverage and more educational outreach on potential benefits of using hearing aids is needed.”
Unfortunately, only about 12 percent of older adults in Charleston who are diagnosed with hearing loss treat their condition with hearing aids—even when cost isn’t an issue due to insurance coverage.
The Prevalence of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Hearing loss related to natural aging (the medical term is presbycusis) is widespread throughout South Carolina. It is one of the top two causes of hearing loss in the U.S. (noise is the other; often the two are related—lifetime exposure to noise hastens the deterioration of the hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for converting sound into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret).
About one-third of all individuals aged 65 have some form of hearing loss; at age 75, almost half of all people are hearing-impaired.
Why doesn’t everyone with hearing loss use a hearing aid?
Not everybody with hearing loss is even aware of their condition. Hearing loss typically develops gradually and the brain does a remarkable job assisting in the hearing process by filling in the gaps.
With hearing loss, the brain has to work harder to understand speech
This can be costly, however; diverting cognitive resources from key areas such as memory and concentration can lead to a variety of health problems. Isolation, loneliness, anxiety, stress, depression and dementia are all common. The odds of developing diabetes and kidney problems are higher and there is an increased risk of falling.
Hearing aids help prevent many of these conditions, as the above statistics show.
What are the barriers to hearing loss treatment?
Even those who do know about their condition sometimes choose to skip wearing hearing aids.
Barriers to treatment include:
- the cost of treatment
- a perceived stigma associated with wearing hearing aids
- discomfort and inconvenience
Who seeks treatment most often?
Men are more likely to wear hearing aids than women (13.3 percent of males vs. 11.3 percent of females) and differences exist based on race, ethnicity and geography. Latinos have the lowest rates of hearing aid use, while people in the North Central United States are most likely to wear them.
Are there any flaws with current studies?
Mahmoudi’s study does have a few flaws in spite of the large sample size and considerable follow-up period. The severity of each patient’s hearing loss was impossible to determine, as was the consistency of their hearing aid use. We also can’t know for sure whether hearing aids were the reason for the decrease in side effects or simply associated with them. An ongoing multi-year study by the National Institute on Aging should help answer these questions about hearing aids.
Talk to your audiologist if you have hearing loss
The bottom line is, hearing aids are the best solution for the vast majority of patients with hearing loss. If you have an untreated hearing impairment, make an appointment with an audiologist in Charleston to learn about your treatment options.
Related Hearing Loss Posts:
- Tips for Traveling with Hearing Loss
- Risk Factors for Hearing Loss That Might Surprise You
- Seasonal Allergies May Affect Hearing Loss
Our Charleston Area Audiologists Office Locations
2295 Henry Tecklenburg Dr
Charleston, SC 29414
180 Wingo Way, Suite 103
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
537 Folly Road
Charleston, SC 29412