You get regular check-ups for your eyes and teeth — so why not your hearing?
Our vision is an essential sensory functions that helps us navigate this world. Our teeth help us savor the delicious things in life and keep our smiles beautiful. We all understand why it’s important to maintain these senses with annual exams, and treatments when necessary. Yet hearing, which keeps us connected to the sounds that enrich our lives, often goes neglected. It is equally important to protect our teeth, vision, and hearing, and if any of them deteriorate, to take action.
Include hearing tests in your annual health maintenance plans
Unfortunately, while most of us punctually visit our dentist twice a year and readily take vision tests when we start to have problems seeing, we aren’t always as vigilant and protective of our hearing. In fact, about one third of older adults with hearing loss report they have never had a hearing test. This is particularly perplexing because many hearing care professionals offer free hearing evaluations, and many insurance policies cover the cost of hearing screenings and tests.
One reason we tend to put off taking care of our ears is because hearing often deteriorates over the course of many years. Hearing loss happens so slowly that if we have it we’re often the last to notice. But it can impact many aspects of our lives, including:
- Job performance
- Relationships with friends and family
- Participation in social activities
- Enjoyment of music
- Ability to localize where sounds come from
- Awareness of serious alarms or warnings
- Overall well-being
More than just not being able to hear speech or certain sounds, untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia and depression, falling, and social isolation.
Hearing loss is more common than you think
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 36 million Americans have a hearing loss — including 17 percent of our adult population. Incidences of hearing loss increase with age. Approximately one third of Americans between ages 65 and 74 and nearly half of those over age 75 have hearing loss.
While it’s great that you actively care for your teeth and your vision, don’t neglect your hearing. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends that adults be screened at least every decade through age 50 and at three-year intervals thereafter. A hearing care professional would be happy to check your hearing, and discuss treatment options if tests reveal a hearing loss.