Have you found yourself asking people to repeat themselves a lot? Do you notice yourself trying to read lips as people speak to you? Are you subconsciously avoiding loud places where you know you won’t be able to make out the conversation? If so, you’re not alone. Hearing loss comes for us all, to one degree or another, and the reasons why are as varied as the people it affects. There’s a genetic component to hearing loss, as well as acute trauma such as attending lots of concerts without ear protection; and of course, one of the main factors: aging.
Almost half of people 50 and older will experience noticeable hearing loss. That’s a huge number, and it means that the public needs to be better educated about ways to protect the hearing they have, as well as cope with their ability to navigate daily life with diminished hearing. Why should you care? Well, in addition to the pragmatic concerns of being able to understand people who are talking to you, the BBC reports that there is mounting evidence that unchecked and untreated hearing loss is a major risk factor for dementia in older individuals.
If you think you’ve begun to experience hearing loss, the best thing you can do is to go visit your physician to get checked up, and potentially be referred to an audiologist. How do you know if you’re really experiencing hearing loss or if it’s just your imagination? Well, be honest with yourself: do you watch TV with the volume on louder than most people would? Are you asking people to repeat themselves a lot? Do you frequently only pretend to have heard what was just said to you? These are all signs that it’s time to pick up the phone and make a doctor’s appointment.
Thankfully, there are strategies that your doctor and audiologist can implement to help you manage hearing loss. First off, hearing aid technology is better and more discreet than it’s ever been in history — and wearing them can provide a profound improvement in many peoples’ daily lives. Secondly, there are little “life hacks” you can incorporate into your day that better your chances of understanding others. Try to focus on reading lips as people speak, and position yourself in such a way that others’ faces are well-lit while you’re talking to them. Standing in the middle of a group of people talking, versus around the edges or (for example) in a chair across the room, can also make a difference in what you’re able to perceive.
If you’re experiencing hearing loss, don’t suffer in silence. Make a doctor’s appointment today, and improve the quality of every day of the rest of your life.