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There are 466 million people living with some degree of hearing loss in the world currently and this number is projected to nearly double in the next thirty years. While many may think that a hearing loss is just an issue with the ears, research has found that the effects on communication can lead not only to depression and a strain on relationships, but lower earnings in the workplace, and a serious impact on cognitive, and physical health. To raise awareness about this serious issue, The World Health Organization (WHO) founded World Hearing Day to educate and advocate for people with this rampant disability. WHO hopes to not only educate about prevention around hearing loss but also advocate for hearing care on a policy level.
Hearing Loss Often Goes Untreated
WHO estimates that 15% of the entire world’s population deals with some degree of hearing loss affecting speech comprehension. This makes it not only difficult to connect with friends, family and co-workers, but creates physical and mental fatigue. Hearing loss can begin early in life, unrecognized, meaning that years can easily go by before a hearing loss is diagnosed. By this point many of the negative side effects of hearing loss have already been progressing for years and are most often difficult to reverse.
The Importance of Hearing Aids
While most forms of hearing loss are irreversible, they are most often effectively treated with hearing aids, which amplify the lost sounds and frequencies so your brain can receive and process the audio information. Hearing aids have been found to not only improve relationships but increase earnings by 50% as well as slow cognitive decline which in turn lowers a person’s risk of developing dementia. Hearing aids are also a personal safety issue. Not only do you communicate using hearing, but your ears also help you anticipate potential obstacles and warnings around you. Your ears localize sounds helping you to understand the direction, speed and proximity to you. When in public or at home this important sense helps to keep you safe, lowering the risk of accidents and falls, which can be deadly for an elderly population frequently affected by hearing issues.
The Global Impact of Hearing Loss
Despite the documented importance of hearing aids, they are often unavailable or too expensive for people of a lower income. While the impact of hearing loss on individuals and families is well established, there have been relatively few attempts to assess at its economic costs. Hearing loss makes it difficult for students to succeed, keeping people with hearing loss out of higher education economic brackets. In the workplace loss of productivity, due to unemployment and premature retirement among people with hearing loss, is estimated to cost $105 billion annually. In the US someone with untreated hearing loss makes on average $12,000 less annually than their healthy hearing co-worker. WHO estimates that the impact on the healthcare system worldwide is estimated to equal around $67–107 billion. What is important for legislators to understand is that an individual’s total health is connected. Ignoring a communication issue can exasperate mental, emotional and physical health issues which can ultimately become chronic, costing an individual’s priceless quality of life. One of the goals of World Hearing Day is to advocate for accessibility and affordability of hearing care so these issues can be dealt with in a timely manner.
Dealing With Hearing Care Now
Hearing loss can affect people at all stages of life, and this is why regular screenings are so important. If a hearing loss is caught early years of strains on relationships, loss of income, impact on self-esteem, and cognitive decline can be avoided. The important thing is to be proactive.
If you suspect that you have even a slight hearing loss, treating it early before it becomes a larger issue is key. Know the signs of hearing loss. If you find you have to ask others to repeat themselves constantly or struggle to follow conversation in a noisy setting you just may be one of the millions affected by untreated hearing loss. Use March 3rd as an excuse to have your hearing tested! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.