Quite often, hearing health is not emphasized unless you have a problem. If you can hear well, you don’t think about taking care of your hearing. However, millions of Americans experience hearing loss at all ages, which can have a serious impact on overall health and well-being. Understanding hearing health, how it’s changing, and how to manage hearing health at this time, can make a significant difference in your health and life.
Just like any part of your health, your hearing health is essential to your overall health. Being able to hear properly gives you the foundation to communicate effectively and interact with the world around you. Proper hearing allows you to connect with others, including loved ones, to facilitate social interaction.
The Negative Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss
Conversely, poor hearing is not just about your mental and emotional health through the ability to connect and communicate. Poor hearing can also contribute to additional health problems that have a profound impact on your physical health, as well. For example, according to Dr. Charlotte S. Yeh, “Hearing loss is associated with earlier onset of dementia, earlier mortality, and six times the rate of falls compared to those with normal hearing.
Contributing to these negative health consequences is the isolation, the loss of interactive communication with others due to inability to hear clearly. This results in loneliness, which is known to have a negative health impact equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” If your hearing is diminished and not properly cared for, you can experience substantial health problems both short- and long-term.
This is not something that only impacts people who are aging or those with hearing loss from birth. According to the director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, more than 450 million children and adults have disabled hearing loss, and it can impact people of all ages and population segments.
New Technology for Better Hearing Health
Fortunately, the technological and medical advances occurring in the 21st century are positively impacting hearing health, as well. With hearing health identified as a societal problem, more resources are needed to provide greater access to hearing health care. This means the implementation of technology in hearing health care, such as telemedicine. Furthermore an emphasis on greater equal access of hearing health care is paramount, according to Hearing Health & Technology Matters.
The COVID-19 global pandemic highlights the need for greater access to hearing health care. In order to slow the spread of the virus and reduce the likelihood of overwhelming health care professionals, it has been necessary to close clinics in many areas of the country, particularly those that offer non-essential or elective care. Hearing health falls into this category.
Unfortunately, many people with hearing loss have suffered significant negative effects as a result of the pandemic. The inability to access hearing health care at clinics, including getting access to hearing assistance devices, has resulted in individuals needing to change their daily routines to compensate for the inability to maintain necessary hearing with the assistance of audiology clinics and care providers.
New technologies offer hope, including hearable devices that will bridge the divide between hearing aids and wireless earbuds. Some of these emerging products make better hearing more affordable and accessible for those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss
Tips to Manage Hearing Health During COVID-19
To address this discrepancy and strive to maintain hearing health, there are things people can do at home. An article from the Hearing Journal online recommends:
- Make sure you have the hearing supplies you need, such as hearing aid batteries, for at least two months.
- Ask if your audiologist can accommodate you through telehealth appointments, such as through video chat apps.
- Ask if your audiologist can accommodate a curbside appointment.
- Work to stay connected with friends and family daily to use hearing ability even during isolation and self-quarantine.
- Research ways to communicate and stay connected, such as text-to-voice apps.
- Think about using a backup hearing device in the event your hearing aid no longer works.
- Have a sign, card, or other way to identify your hearing loss for health care professionals. First responders need this information in the event of an emergency.
While these tips may not prevent problems with hearing, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, they can help make this time easier for those with hearing loss. Along with these kinds of tips, keep learning about hearing loss and hearing health. Discover how to take care of yourself at home. Research new innovations such as hearables that help with hearing health. And talk with others, such as care providers and loved ones, about your hearing health. The more you know about hearing health, the easier it will be to take care of yourself, even in the midst of a global pandemic.