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For almost 100 years, hearing health professionals have banded together with other communication specialists endeavoring to spread awareness and spur action through a month-long advocacy campaign. Better Speech and Hearing Month’s theme, Connecting People, stays true to the original mission: to spread the word about communication disorders like hearing loss, and connect you to resources that will alleviate your burden.
How you can help
Hearing loss and its impact doesn’t happen in isolation. That is to say, it’s not just people experiencing hearing loss who suffer. Friends and family of people who face significant challenges in communicating are also impacted by way of disintegration of close relationships, a decrease in the amount of quality connection we have with our loved ones and watching someone we adore suffer through its effects like depression.
One of the most powerful things you can do this month is to join the advocacy campaign by sharing information with your circles and networks. This can mean forwarding an article to a friend or family member, or sharing it more widely on social media. A major goal of Better Speech and Hearing Month is education and reduction towards the stigma of disorders so that people feel more comfortable addressing their hearing loss and seeking treatment.
Most common causes of hearing loss
Age-related and noise-induced hearing loss are two of the most common types of hearing loss. Both occur when the sensitive and powerful cells of the inner ear become damaged, either due to excessive noise exposure or the simple aging process.
These cells are non-regenerative, which means they do not repair themselves when they are damaged. Once we lose them, we simply have less to work with. They’re integral to the hearing process, receiving noise from the external world and transmitting it as sound information to the brain’s processing centers. When we have less of these cells, we are able to capture less of the world’s sound and the result is that we hear less.
Symptoms of hearing loss
Because of the way this type of hearing loss works, we tend to lose access to frequencies first, and typically higher frequencies. High frequency sounds like birdsong, children’s voices or other types of speech become more difficult to hear. For this reason, speech clarity is one of the first signs of hearing loss.
It may sound as though you’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves (it might even feel like everyone is mumbling). You become dependent on the closed captioning function of your television to make out dialogue in tv and movies. You might even begin to avoid phone calls or casual conversation with acquaintances because the experience is draining and frustrating.
Most people wait to treat hearing loss
The truth is that hearing loss is notoriously difficult to self-diagnose. Many people’s hearing loss is first noticed by friends and family because of changes in behavior. And treatment isn’t people’s first inclination, either. Perhaps access is an issue, or cultural ideas about hearing loss or the fact that some people think hearing loss is an inevitability of aging (it isn’t).
The average person waits ten years before intervening in hearing loss. The good news is that the most motivating factor that led people to seek treatment remains encouragement from friends and family. So if you find yourself with a loved one experiencing hearing loss, stay on course with encouragement and information about why they should treat their condition.
The disadvantages of living with undiagnosed hearing loss
We know that untreated hearing loss can lead to a multitude of other health issues, specifically degrading a person’s quality of life. Emotional and mental health is almost immediately impacted, as most people with hearing loss report a sense of isolation and depression. When communication becomes challenging, it’s easy to feel cut off from connection with those we love.
Proven treatments for hearing loss
While most hearing loss is permanent and progressive, it’s also highly treatable. There are many effective and proven solutions, such as hearing aids, that drastically improve peoples quality of life. Most hearing aid wearers are satisfied with their purchase and would recommend the same to a friend. And one of the leading outcomes of hearing aids tends to be improved relationships. When hearing loss is treated, we can begin to thrive again.