To highlight and help increase awareness of hearing loss, this blog is dedicated to the efforts that surround the national campaign for May as Better Hearing and Speech Month. Hearing loss is ranked as one of the most common chronic health conditions that U.S. adults experience, affecting an estimated 48 million people nationwide. New polling released by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) reveals an overwhelming disconnect between the high value that Americans say they place on their hearing and their low willingness to be treated for any hearing loss. This has prompted a new public service announcement (PSA) campaign: Act Now on Hearing. This PSA will air nationwide for the next year educating Americans on the signs of hearing loss and guiding those affected to find care from a certified audiologist.
People with hearing loss often wait an average of seven years before seeking treatment. When left untreated, hearing loss has been linked to several other health problems, including social isolation and depression, cognitive decline, and increased stress levels. A 12-year study found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk, moderate loss tripled risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia (Lin, et al, 2011).
Additional statistics learned from a poll conducted by ASHA of nearly 2,500 adults ages 18 and older found:
- 80% of Americans say maintaining their hearing heath is extremely important or very important to their quality of life.
- Only 2 in 10 (20%) adults have had a hearing test in the past five years, compared with roughly 6 in 10 (61%) who have had their vision tested.
- More than half (51%) of all adults reported having hearing problems, but only 11% of those respondents have sought treatment.
- More than three-quarters (78%) of those with hearing problems have had these difficulties for one or more years—and over one-third (35%) have had trouble for five or more years.
- A 42% plurality of Americans understand that mild hearing loss can impact a person’s life or daily functioning. Yet, more than half of those with untreated hearing problems (56%) say that they would be unlikely to treat it unless it was “severe.”
Click through for additional information on Attitudes and Actions Towards Hearing Health Survey Results findings from ASHA.
A global spotlight
The World Health Organization (WHO) released the first-ever World Report on Hearing projecting that by 2050, 2.5 billion people will be living with some degree of hearing loss. This translates into 1 in 4 people worldwide, at least 700 million of whom will require rehabilitation services.
Hearing loss can be addressed through effective and timely interventions. In children, almost 60% of hearing loss is due to causes that can be prevented through measures such as immunization, improved maternal and neonatal care, and screening for, and early management of, otitis media. In adults, legislation on noise control and safe listening, and surveillance of ototoxicity can help maintain hearing trajectories and reduce the potential for hearing loss.
Click through to learn more about the World Report on Hearing.
Take action now
It is important to act now for a variety reasons, but in particular the recent COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of hearing, which allows us to remain connected to others when social distancing and losing visual cues due to the use of masks.
As audiologists we have the platform to help increase awareness, motivate those struggling with hearing loss to take that initial step toward treatment, educate others on hearing technology and its benefits, and counsel each patient we treat on the importance of protecting our ears from loud noises.
How can you get involved? Consider any of the following:
- Volunteer to present to your local community on the effects of hearing loss.
- Post the present statistics surrounding hearing loss and the benefits of hearing technology on your social media accounts.
- Offer free hearing screenings at your facility.
- Encourage your inner circle of friends and family to complete a basic hearing test.
- Lead by example and treat your own ears with kindness by reducing exposure to loud noises.
If we each commit to doing one thing to help raise awareness together, we can make a difference!
Kochkin S & Rogin C. Quantifying the Obvious: The Impact of Hearing Instruments on Quality of Life; The Hearing Review, January 2000. Lin FR, Metter EJ, O'Brien RJ, Resnick SM, Zonderman AB, Ferrucci L. Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of neurology. 2011; 68(2):214-20. NIHMSID: NIHMS336097 PubMed PMID: 21320988, PMCID: PMC3277836 American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) 2021. Attitudes and Actions Towards Hearing Health. Survey Results; www.asha.org World Health Organization (2021): Report on Hearing; www.who.int
About the Author:
Carissa Moeggenberg is an audiologist who has worked in the hearing healthcare field for the past 29 years. She is presently the Training Manager for Oticon Medical.