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Other risks of untreated hearing loss documented

If you suspect you have a hearing impairment but are reluctant to check it out, consider this: people with untreated hearing loss suffer from more physical, psychological and economical conditions than people who wear hearing aids.

In other words, you may be healthier, happier and make more money if you have your hearing tested and treated as soon as you think you may have a problem.

Hearing health professionals estimate there are 38 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss. Most of these individuals wait an average of seven years before having their hearing tested. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, only one in five people who could benefit from wearing a hearing aid actually do.

Besides the physical limitations of not hearing well, individuals with untreated hearing loss are three times more likely to fall than those with no hearing loss, according to a John Hopkins study published in the February 28 issues of Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers suspect it’s because those who are hearing impaired don’t have a good awareness of their environment.

Can hearing aids actually make you happier? Studies indicate they can. According to a study by the National Council on Aging, individuals over the age of 50 with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report feeling depressed, anxious, angry and frustrated, and less likely to participate in organized social activities than those who used hearing aids.

And, in a recent study published by the Better Hearing Institute, more than half of the 1,800 hearing aid users surveyed said they believed using hearing aids improved their relationships with family and friends and made them more comfortable in social situations. Results from another study published in the May 2011 Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics found that patients’ psychosocial health, as well as cognitive conditions, improved within three months of using a hearing aid.

Still need more encouragement to have your hearing checked? A recent survey of more than 40,000 households by the Better Hearing Institute indicate those with hearing impairments average $12,000 less per year than those without a hearing problem. Loss of income was cut in half by those who wore hearing aids, the recommended treatment for 90-95 percent of individuals with hearing loss. Researchers said this is because employed individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to be underemployed, make mistakes on the job or be unemployed altogether.

Fortunately, all it takes is a phone call to your local hearing center or family physician to get the ball rolling. Once your hearing loss is diagnosed, chances are good you can treat it effectively and be on the way to enjoying better health and quality of life.

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