When we think of May, we conjure up images of sunshine, green grass, and spring flowers. The last thing you think of are hearing aids, right?
Well, you should, because May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. This annual event raises awareness about communication disorders and promotes treatment that can improve the quality of life for those who experience problems with hearing, speaking and understanding.
There are lots of reasons why you should listen to this message – especially if you can't hear it too well!
You may be wondering why Better Hearing and Speech Month is so important. The reasons are fairly obvious, but this may be a good time to reiterate them: Hearing loss is the third most prevalent but treatable condition among seniors, behind arthritis and hypertension.
In fact, 3 in 10 people over 60 are hearing impaired. Additionally, 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59); 1 in 14 of those who are 29 to 40; and at least 1.4 million children, have hearing loss. All in all, an estimated 36 million people in this country have hearing problems, and millions of them suffer – literally – in silence because their condition remains undetected, untreated, or both; studies show that while 95 percent of people with hearing loss can be helped by hearing aids, only 23 percent currently use them.
Still not convinced to make this a better month for your hearing?
|Love your hearing|
If you are one of those people who need an extra dose of persuasion because a) you don't believe you have a hearing problem or b) you don't want to wear hearing aids because you think they'd make you look old, read on.
If everyone around you has to shout at you and you have to strain to hear them, then chances are you do have hearing loss, whether you want to admit it or not. If that's the case, there is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed of because – as above numbers demonstrate – you are far from alone.
Now, what if you don't want to get fitted with hearing aids because you believe – mistakenly, of course – that they will make you look older? While cosmetic considerations should never override health benefits, let us reassure you that modern, state-of-the art hearing aid technology is tiny and hardly visible. So that's another argument that bites the dust.
Think about it this way: if you had vision problems that impacted your daily activities, would you refuse to wear glasses because they made you look old?
The only reason that may hold some validity is that the cost of hearing aids is high – between $1000 and $5000 per hearing aid, depending on the model. Yes, that's a problem, especially since these devices are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, and the only relief, the Hearing Aids Tax Credit, is still languishing in Congress.
For persons who need hearing aids but can't afford them it may be worth your time to seek financial aid to defray the costs through their state and local departments of social services, or fraternal organizations like the Kiwanis and Lions Club International. For a comprehensive list of national and state organizations offering financial assistance for hearing aids, request Healthy Hearing's free financial guide to hearing aids.
If you are still a fence sitter, consider this: Numerous studies have repeatedly shown that untreated hearing loss can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, sadness, and depression. It can also endanger your safety, because you are not able to hear – and react to – sounds of impending danger, such as fire alarms or oncoming traffic.
On the positive side, once you get fitted with hearing aids, allowing you to actively participate in conversations and other activities, your overall quality of life will improve.
Not only that, but BHI's survey shows that people who ignore their hearing problems collectively lose a staggering $100 billion a year in earnings. But, research indicates, income loss can be cut in half by wearing hearing aids.
Think about it: quality of life, safety, and earning power – all of them can be boosted by hearing amplification.
Hearing aids to the rescue
Forget the "no pain, no gain" premise: A hearing test conducted by a certified and licensed professional is painless.
Yet, it is essential not only for detecting the level of your hearing loss, but also for fitting you with the most suitable hearing aids for your ears.
We can't stress it enough: hearing loss is a treatable condition and hearing aids are absolutely crucial to your well-being and safety. While nothing can replace these devices, there are additional steps you can take to protect your hearing – in addition to amplification, NOT instead of it:
- Avoid prolonged exposure to loud noise, which is defined as sounds louder than 85 decibels. If working in a noisy environment, wear earplugs or other protective gear. While you're at it, keep the volume down on your iPod or another personal audio system, or invest into high-quality noise-cancellation headphones.
- Stop smoking. It's harmful to your hearing, and toxic to all the other organs in your body.
- If you are overweight, try to shed those extra pounds with diet and exercise.
- If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, or suspect you might have it, get tested and treated immediately, since there is correlation between this disease and hearing loss.
- If you have young children, check the sound emitted by their toys. If they sound too loud to you, they will certainly be too loud for a child. (And research conducted in 2008 demonstrated that out of 18 toys put to test, 14 measured over 100 dB.)
There you have it: a multitude of reasons why you should head to your nearest hearing professional without delay. That's a good advice for May, and the other eleven months of the year!