Take Charge of Your Hearing for Men's Health Month
June is Men’s Health Month, a time to raise awareness and encourage early detection of the serious health risks facing men, such as prostate cancer, heart disease, and stroke. While a greater focus has been put on men’s mental health in recent years, there is another problem that goes relatively unnoticed: hearing loss.
Like depression and anxiety, hearing loss is an invisible ailment that can creep in before you know it. For that reason, it’s important to stay vigilant against hearing loss and put more emphasis on hearing protection. Many people neglect their hearing until it’s too late, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Men’s Health Month was created to raise awareness and promote healthy living, so let’s use this time to put a spotlight on your ears.
The Importance of Early Detection
Most of us understand the importance of detecting problems like cancer and depression early on and the risks of leaving them untreated. Hearing loss is no different. While some may overlook or diminish the effects of hearing loss, they can have a profound impact on your daily life.
When left untreated, hearing loss slowly worsens, stripping away the person’s ability to hear certain sounds, frequencies, or volumes. Music will become less enjoyable, conversations will become more difficult, and you might not even notice what you’re missing. Your brain naturally compensates for your diminished senses; similar to how you can find your way around in the dark, your brain works harder to fill in the blanks.
However, this overcompensation puts a lot of stress on your brain. Fatigue, mental exhaustion, and even depression are not uncommon among those with untreated hearing loss. People with hearing loss are often surprised or shocked when they’re finally fitted with hearing aids. Sounds that used to get lost in the fray (birds chirping, the cadences of people’s voices) are now clear again.
If you find yourself struggling to understand the sounds around you, it might be in your best interest to get that checked out sooner rather than later.
Are You at Risk of Developing Hearing Loss?
Believe it or not, men are more at risk of hearing loss than women. This is due to a number of factors, including:
- Diabetes, which is more common among men than women.
- Work. More men than women have jobs that expose them to loud noises (military, construction, etc.)
- Heart disease and high blood pressure, both of which are more prevalent in men.
- Smoking, drinking, and the frequent use of painkillers.
Despite being five times more likely to develop hearing loss, some men may feel ashamed of or embarrassed about their hearing loss. This stigma leads them to ignore it, allowing it to worsen over time. As the years go by, their moderate hearing loss might become profound, and other issues like depression and fatigue could arise.
There are many causes of hearing loss, but noise exposure is the biggest threat. If you work in a loud environment like a concert venue or construction site, you should get your hearing checked often. Men with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues should also take steps to get their hearing tested frequently. Even if you don’t suffer from any of these issues, audiograms are recommended every 3-5 years for everyone.
Avoiding hearing loss entirely is difficult, but healthy living can reduce your chances of developing it. Simple things like turning down the music and TV volume, wearing hearing protection, exercising, and regular hearing tests are all ways you can protect your hearing. Even if you have hearing loss already, taking measures to protect what’s left will help you in the long run.
Men’s hearing health is a rather unexplored topic, especially in the mainstream. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot talk about it. By discussing healthy hearing and raising awareness about hearing loss, we can inspire more men to seek the help they need.
Recognizing the Signs
The signs of hearing loss can be subtle and hard to recognize at first. Many people may not even realize that they have hearing loss because their brain adapts too quickly for them to see a difference. However, that doesn’t mean that hearing loss cannot manifest itself in other ways. Some individuals report feeling depressed and isolated after developing hearing loss. They may struggle to communicate, avoid social situations, and find less enjoyment in things like walks, conversations, and parties.
While many cases of hearing loss develop gradually over time, certain infections can also cause sudden hearing loss. If you find yourself struggling to hear after an illness, mention this to your doctor. After recognizing your hearing loss, deciding to do something about it is the first step to overcoming it — but it’s also the most difficult one to take.
If you think you might have hearing loss, based on a hunch or your results of an online hearing test, the first step involves visiting a hearing care professional (HCP). They will be able to determine if you have hearing loss, what kind of hearing loss you have, and the severity. If your hearing has deteriorated, they might recommend hearing aids.
Regardless of whether or not you have hearing loss, visiting an HCP is an important part of keeping up with your ears. However, it’s a commonly overlooked necessity. Many people go full decades without getting their hearing tested, leaving themselves open to the creeping effects of hearing loss. They might not even know how much it’s impacting them until they finally get diagnosed.
You shouldn’t wait until the problem is affecting your life to seek help. By maintaining self-awareness, you can detect hearing loss before it becomes an issue. If you’ve been putting off an audiogram, perhaps June is the time to reach out to an HCP. If you already have hearing loss, a diagnosis or treatment is not far away. HCPs can be found nearly everywhere, and Signia’s online locator tool can help you find them.
Don’t neglect your hearing, it’s just as important as any other part of your health.