One in three people over the age of 60 have hearing loss, making it one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. Although most adults wait an average of 5-15 years before seeking help for their hearing loss, there are compelling reasons you shouldn't. The sooner you get help for your hearing impairment, the easier it will be for your brain to use the auditory pathways it's developed for processing sound.
The same is true for children with untreated hearing loss. Research tell us that babies whose hearing impairment is detected and treated by the time they are six months old are more likely to learn essential speech and language skills than children whose hearing impairment goes undetected.
Socially, children and adults with untreated hearing loss are at risk for developing challenges with:
- Communication. Adults with hearing loss have difficulty participating in conversations at work, home and in social situations. Children with hearing loss - especially those younger than six months -- have difficulty learning important language skills that normal hearing children learn by listening to language spoken by family members.
- Isolation. Adults typically distance themselves from family and friends because it's too difficult to hear and participate in the conversation. Children are often isolated from their peers or become withdrawn because they have difficulty communicating or are embarrassed by their hearing handicap.
- Income. According to a study by the Better Hearing Institute, untreated hearing loss affects productivity, performance and career success, resulting in as much as a $30,000 loss in annual income.
- Family relationships. Children with hearing loss often have trouble articulating their feelings, which makes communication frustrating for family members. Adults may feel they aren't being heard and become isolated and depressed. Family members who have loved ones with untreated hearing loss say they sometimes experience feelings of frustration, annoyance and sadness.
The psychological effects of untreated hearing loss for both children and adults can include increased outbursts of anger, low self-confidence, frustration, embarrassment and depression. Adults may experience periods of sadness and grieving as their ability to hear diminishes. They also may feel more fatigued, as the struggle to hear and understand can be physically exhausting.
Fortunately, most of these issues are resolved once the hearing impairment is treated effectively. Hearing health professionals say that children whose hearing impairment is detected and treated early can develop speech and language skills at the same level as their normal hearing peers, which positively affects self-esteem, social interaction with peers and academic success.
Adults have similar success. A recent study found that 73 percent of individuals with hearing loss, and 41 percent of their relatives, believed their family relationships improved once they started wearing hearing aids.