Having dealt with hearing loss and hearing aids as an individual as well as an online hearing aid retailer (www.hearingwisdom.com) and although we built our web site to address the pricing issues, I can report to you that the foremost issue is that people are mostly unaware of their own hearing loss. Why? Hearing loss starts very early, about the same time most people start graying. The difference is that gray hair is easily noticeable while hearing loss is so slow its imperceptible.
Mostly we find out from loved ones; they try to let us know about our hearing loss and often we refuse to believe them. They are the ones to first notice how we keep asking them to repeat what they say or to stop mumbling and whispering. But still we are reluctant to do anything about our hearing loss.
Even when faced with increasing and persistent complaints we resist, because basically it takes a long time to accept hearing loss— on the average 10 years according to the NIH. Hearing loss is hard to notice unless you have something to compare it to. On the other hand, we can see our graying hair daily in the mirror. Of course those of us who care are often at the start in denial; we think it’s an errant gray hair and we simply pull it out. But slowly and surely as more grayness shows up and it becomes all too visible, many of us take action. Hearing loss is also visible, but we tend to ignore the signals. We just turn the volume up a little on the TV and then everything is fine. Our friends are also more or less in the same boat so we tend to reinforce each other. We reassure each other that it is others who are mumbling or that restaurants are just noisier today.
So what about those 10 years? They are the average number of years from the point that we understand that we do have hearing loss until when we finally take action. Those 10 years are, however, very significant from another perspective. During those 10 years, our brain’s audio cortex, the area that processes our hearing, is not being stimulated. Which is a shame because the fact is the longer we wait, the higher the risk for attendant problems such as cognitive decline and balance issues. As many of us have learned over our life, the saying “use it or lose it” turns out to be true in trying to ward off many forms of physical or mental decline. Including our hearing and our brains.
So will using hearing aids be as restorative as other forms of exercise? In a manner of speaking emphatically yes. The data about hearing aids is similar to the value of exercise. Evidence is mounting that the use of hearing aids prevents decline in the audio cortex, just as swimming or walking build up your stamina and energize you. Hearing aids restore your ability to participate in conversations and help with social interactions. These are both key factors in healthy living not to mention longevity.