AARP Eye Center
If you’re finding it hard to hear what your companions are saying in a restaurant or at a party, it’s time to get your hearing checked.
The inability to hear speech in a noisy environment is one of the first signs of hearing loss, and although it may bother you only in certain situations, it’s not something to ignore. Hearing loss should not be dismissed as a natural sign of aging any more than high blood pressure or cholesterol would be.
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On the contrary, it is at this early stage when you most need hearing aids. Audiologists believe that if you treat the loss early, you keep the speech pathways in your brain active and agile. The longer you wait, the harder it is to retrain your brain to recognize signals as speech and the harder it is to adjust to hearing aids or even a cochlear implant.
Promptly getting hearing aids or other kinds of hearing assistance also allows your brain to better adjust to the decline in hearing that occurs naturally as everyone ages, and lets you maintain greater speech comprehension as you age.
Unfortunately, many people wait too long to get a hearing aid — an average 10 years between the initial recommendation to get one and the actual purchase, according to a 2007 study.
Leaving hearing loss untreated has a psychological and social impact on a person, as well as on their friends and family. A study by the National Council on Aging showed significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, fatigue and other psychological disorders in individuals with untreated hearing loss. Getting treatment improved these conditions.
Indeed, as I have written in earlier posts and other articles, untreated hearing loss has a strong correlation with early onset and more severe dementia of all types, including Alzheimer’s.
So if you’re having trouble in restaurants and in noisy places in general, ask your audiologist to do a “speech in noise” test as well as the standard hearing test. The results could show you something quite different from the standard test. And if it does — treat it. Quickly.
Photo: Steve Debenport/iStock
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