What Happens When You Ignore Hearing Loss
Hearing plays a crucial role in all aspects of our lives—when we talk to friends and loved ones, listen to music, watch TV, interact with colleagues, or just walk down the street listening to the everyday sounds that surround us. But if you have hearing loss, hearing these things can become a challenge. Around 466 million people worldwide currently experience hearing loss, and the World Health Organization estimates that another 1.1 billion young people are at risk of losing their hearing.
While the growing number of people with hearing loss is certainly a concern, so is the fact that so few choose to do anything about it. It’s said that only about 20 percent of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually wear them, meaning there are millions of individuals choosing to ignore their hearing loss. While you might think hearing well isn’t a big deal or worth seeking treatment for, guess again.
Harvey Patterson can attest to the challenges of living with hearing loss. A machine tool designer and NASCAR pit mechanic, Harvey has been exposed to loud noises for most of his life. This exposure has not only taken a toll on his hearing, but so many aspects of his life. If you continue to ignore your hearing loss, you may experience the same difficulties that he did, including:
Strained personal relationships
Hearing loss doesn’t just affect you, it can also be difficult for family and friends who struggle to communicate with you. Misunderstandings occur easily, which can strain those relationships. A defining moment for Harvey occurred when he didn’t hear an invitation from his grandson to watch him compete in a cross-country meet. After he failed to show up, his grandson asked why he didn’t love him anymore. If an innocent misunderstanding like that can make a child question his grandfather’s love, think about how damaging it can be to go years without treating your hearing loss and missing significant events in your family’s lives.
Career damage and safety risks
Aside from personal relationships, hearing loss can also put your career and job security at risk. Not hearing important directions from your boss or requests from clients can lead to work being done improperly. And employees with untreated hearing loss are more likely to earn less than their peers with normal hearing. For Harvey’s job, hearing is essential—if a machine isn’t working properly, sound is one of the first indicators. As Harvey’s hearing diminished, it became more difficult for him to hear those subtle cues.
Increased health risks
Since Harvey didn’t always respond when his grandsons spoke to him, they assumed he just wasn’t interested in them. Such fractured personal relationships can lead to social isolation, which can cause or exacerbate mental health conditions like depression or dementia. Hearing loss can also increase physical health risks, as people with hearing loss are three times as likely to experience dangerous falls.
Decreased quality of life
In addition to the potential damage to relationships with those important to you, your job stability, and your health, even the small things you miss out on can have a huge impact. Going to the park, walking around the neighborhood, or conversing in a restaurant—the world is full of sounds that make life more interesting and enjoyable. Missing out on them can be incredibly frustrating and diminish your quality of life.
Treating hearing loss improves lives
As devastating as it can be to miss out on these sounds, most people still put off addressing their hearing loss for an average of seven years after first noticing it. As you can imagine, a lot can happen in those seven years. But instead of just putting up with hearing poorly and shrugging off the negative effects, you can do something about it.
After he missed his grandson’s cross-country meet, Harvey decided he’d had enough and finally chose to do something about his hearing loss. He met with a hearing care professional to test his hearing and recommend the right hearing aids. And it changed his life completely.
Taking the steps to acknowledge you have hearing loss—and doing something about it—isn’t easy for everyone, and it certainly wasn’t for Harvey. But do you really want to continue missing out on the important things in life, or would you rather hear what you love again? It’s your choice.