May is National Better Hearing Month, and the American Academy of Audiology is urging the public to be aware of the importance of good hearing health. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that 37.5 million Americans experience hearing loss and that approximately 28.8 million adults in the U.S. may benefit from the use of hearing devices. Of these individuals, less than 30% who are 70 years and older utilize hearing aids. As the baby boomer generation becomes older, more of these individuals will experience hearing loss.
Hearing loss is strongly associated with other medical conditions, including cognitive decline, falls, tinnitus, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Untreated hearing loss can negatively impact the brain and cognitive health. A study published by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care cited nine risk factors for dementia. Untreated hearing loss in midlife was listed as one of these risk factors. The report also stated dementia typically began many years before it was recognized. Therefore, earlier detection of hearing loss is crucial to maintaining cognitive health.
Untreated hearing loss can also increase the risk of falls. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, individuals with increasing hearing loss (e.g., progression from normal hearing to untreated mild hearing loss) were three times more likely to experience a fall.
Here are some more statistics you need to know about the link between hearing loss and other common medical issues.
- Approximately 90% of individuals who report hearing loss also experience tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
- Hearing loss occurs 54% more often in individuals with heart disease.
- Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss.
- Hearing loss can be a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for individuals with cancer.
Audiologists evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing disorders. Audiologists also evaluate, diagnose and treat vestibular (balance) disorders. These hearing health care providers facilitate rehabilitation for hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and imbalance.
The first step to maintaining your hearing health is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist to evaluate your hearing and/or balance and discuss treatment options. Information provided by Dr. Kelly Cook, Audiologist, Iowa Hearing Center, 1228 Sunset Drive, Suite B, Norwalk, (515) 416-5990, www.IowaHearingCenter.com. Dr. Cook is a member of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), a professional organization promoting quality hearing and balance care.