According to Statistics Canada, almost 40 percent of adults aged 20-79 have some degree of hearing loss. However, only one out of five individuals who could benefit from the use of hearing aids actually seek treatment. Hearing loss is more common than most people presume, and with hearing loss being such a life-altering issue it is important to take action as soon as possible.
There are a variety of treatment options available to keep you connected to your world. Treatment options for hearing loss include hearing aids or medical intervention including surgery.
Treatment options should be discussed with your hearing healthcare provider and your physician. The proper treatment depends on a variety of factors including the type and degree of hearing loss, the underlying cause as well as your lifestyle and budget.
Why treat hearing loss?
Despite the prevalence of hearing loss nationwide, many people delay seeking treatment out of denial, fear or embarrassment. Untreated hearing loss is seen by many people as only a communication issue, but do not consider the wide-ranging health consequences that associate with it. According to the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, studies show that hearing loss has been linked to both physical and psychological health problems including anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and an increased risk of falls. In addition, it can reduce one's activity and participation in daily tasks and pastimes, leading to decreased quality of life.
The impact of hearing loss on quality of life
Hearing loss has been linked to decreased quality of life. An untreated hearing loss makes it difficult for you to follow conversations and is often very exhausting. It often leads to reduced contact with family, friends and colleagues, which can turn into feelings of isolation and depression. Hearing is central to your health and quality of life. If you are not enjoying the activities you used to take pleasure in and are having difficulty following conversations with the people around you, it is imperative that you seek support.
The National Institute for Health Research highlights the positive impact that hearing aids can have on conversation and socialization. When you wear hearing aids you will find it easier to communicate and participate in social activities. In turn, reducing the stigma of hearing loss, raising awareness of hearing healthcare service and encouraging people to seek intervention sooner so they can get back to enjoying life.
There are a number of health benefits through the use of hearing aids:
Treatment for conductive hearing loss
This type of hearing loss is usually temporary and occurs when there is an issue with the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from being conducted to the inner ear. Such condition can include earwax buildup, fluid in the middle ear system (otitis media), a ruptured eardrum (perforated eardrum), or otosclerosis – fusion of the middle ear bones. These types of conditions are often corrected with medical treatments, including earwax removal, antibiotics or surgical procedures.
Conductive hearing loss caused by other abnormalities of the outer or middle ear can include ear canal stenosis (narrow ear canal), exostosis (surfer’s ear), or otosclerosis - an abnormal growth of bone near the middle ear. These types of conditions are often more difficult to treat medically. In the event that medical treatment does not improve the hearing loss, other treatment options include hearing aids or a bone-anchored hearing device.
Treatment for sensorineural hearing loss
This type of hearing loss is permanent and is most often treated with hearing aids or in severe to profound cases - cochlear implants. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear (the cochlea) and/or auditory nerve. Because the inner ear and auditory nerve cannot repair themselves, sensorineural hearing loss cannot be treated by medication or surgery. Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise and ageing (presbycusis) are the most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss.
If a permanent hearing loss is suspected, individuals should seek treatment from a hearing healthcare provider who can help provide available options.
Treating hearing loss with hearing aids
When medical intervention cannot restore your hearing, hearing aids are a remarkable option for many individuals. The purpose of hearing aids is to amplify the sounds that you are missing. They do not restore your hearing but rather increase the volume of sounds in the ranges that you are not hearing, thereby allowing you to stay connected to others more easily. Hearing aids also include additional programming features for your different listening environments, which can allow you to listen and communicate with ease. There are many types, colours and styles of hearing aids available for you to choose from. Your hearing health care professional can discuss with you what is most suited to your needs based on your degree of hearing loss and personal preference.
Assistive listening devices
Hearing aids provide significant benefits for those suffering from hearing loss, but in some cases, they alone cannot address specific listening situations. Assistive listening devices can be used to help you hear better while watching television, listening to the radio, talking on the phone or attending sermons or lectures. Talk to your hearing care professional about which assistive listening device option is most suited for your hearing loss and bridge the gap in communication.
There are a number of unique accessories to help you get the most out of your hearing aids, including miniature microphones that can allow listening to someone from a distance easier, wireless capabilities to stream music from your smart phone or car and the ability to make hands-free calls. A remote control can allow for easy volume and programming control with the push of a button, and is small and compact to carry in your pocket or handbag.
The variety of options are endless and make using your hearing aids much easier and more enjoyable.
Hearing loss is very common and there are a number of treatment options available. The amazing technological advances in hearing aids and medical options available today can help reconnect you with your world.
If you think you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss, don't delay another day to seek support. A baseline hearing test, proper treatment options and small changes in habit can result in substantial benefit to your hearing health. Visit a hearing healthcare professional near you and take the first step toward a life of better hearing.