(BPT) - Life’s “To Do” list can be pretty daunting. And often, getting started on something is the hardest part. This can be especially true for addressing hearing loss.
In fact, most people wait roughly seven years to do anything about it once they realize they have hearing loss. And that’s too bad — research shows that when people treat even just mild hearing loss, their quality of life goes up. Plus, when people with hearing loss use hearing aids, they get more pleasure from doing things and feel more engaged in life.
Conversely, non-hearing aid users are more prone to feel down, depressed or hopeless, a Better Hearing Institute (BHI) survey found. They’re also more likely than hearing aid users to say they find themselves getting more forgetful. Groundbreaking studies, in fact, discovered that hearing loss is linked to cognitive decline and dementia. Add to that, BHI research showing that untreated hearing loss can take a significant toll on earnings — up to $30,000 annually.
The tricky thing is, we live in a noisy world. It’s hard not to be affected. Many of us undoubtedly feel the impact of blaring music, earbuds, noisy restaurants, clubs and coffee shops, high-decibel ball games and motor sports, ear-piercingly shrill power tools, loud workplaces, and more.
It all boils down to this: You’re not alone in the changes and struggles you’re experiencing with your hearing. You have lots of company. Almost 40 million others in the United States have some degree of hearing loss. Research even suggests that hearing loss is now common among people in their 40’s, and is increasing among 20-to-39-year-olds.
Luckily, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids — which are now cooler, sleeker, smaller, more powerful, and work better than ever before. They’ve transformed dramatically, even in just the last couple of years.
So if you’re tired of turning up the TV volume, missing what people are saying at work, asking family and friends to repeat things, can barely remember the sound of morning birds, or are simply worn out from coping with a neglected hearing loss, do something about it. This may be your monumental moment. You can make the most of it.
To help, we’ve put together five easy, achievable steps to get you started. The road to better hearing — and a better quality of life — is a single step away.
1. Take a convenient online hearing check at www.BetterHearing.org.BHI offers a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check you can take in the privacy and comfort of your home. A series of questions helps you determine if you need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing care professional. It’s a great way to get started — because you can ease into the possibility that it’s time to do something about your hearing difficulty. Useful information on hearing loss and hearing aid technologies awaits you on the site as well.
2. Visit a local hearing care professional. Hearing care professionals — audiologists, hearing aid specialists, and ENT’s (Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors or doctors of otology and otolaryngology) — are best-suited to help you. Audiologists and hearing aid specialists are expressly trained in all aspects of hearing aids and amplification, and are licensed by your state. Many work in practices with ENT doctors. They have the most appropriate and accurate equipment to give you a precise read on your current hearing level. And they can reliably counsel you on treatment options. Most important, going to a hearing care professional helps ensure that any underlying medical issue behind your hearing loss is identified and addressed. Simply, seeing a hearing care professional is your best safety net for proper diagnosis and treatment. The smartest thing you can do is to get it right the first time. And be assured, research shows that the great majority of people who visit hearing care professionals say they’re happy with the quality of service and counseling they receive. Most hearing care professionals even provide free trials so you can see what using hearing aids is like, with a minimal service fee if you decide not to keep them.
3. Information gather. Educating yourself helps you reach acceptance and peace of mind. Go to www.BetterHearing.org and learn what you need to know. Among other things, you’ll find:
* You can do this.
* You’re not alone.
* New, sleek and stylish, state-of-the-art hearing aids make it much easier to manage hearing difficulty without a lot of fuss.
* Many new hearing aids are virtually invisible; they sit inside the ear canal, out of site.
* Treating hearing loss means better quality of life and more effortless living for you.
4. Window shop.It’s OK to “just look.” You set the pace. Visit the “Hearing Aids Can Help” tab at www.BetterHearing.org. Opportunities to online window shop for hearing aids are right there for you. But most important, be up-front with your hearing care professional. Tell them you’re not ready to buy. But do let them know you’re ready to learn about the best hearing aid technologies for you if hearing aids are what they recommend, to get demonstrations on how they work, and to try them out at no cost or obligation. And remember, hearing aids are only sold by licensed hearing care professionals. True hearing aids that are designed to treat hearing loss and are cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) need to be fitted, adjusted, and tuned to your ears and specific needs, with appropriate follow-up. This is what makes leading-edge hearing aids so beneficial. So when you do seek out information, make sure you go to a hearing care professional.
5. Let it all sink in and make a plan.Consider everything you’ve learned and take time to think about it. But do give yourself a timeline for making a decision. If — after you’ve educated yourself about hearing loss and hearing aids — you decide to wait, set a hard date for re-evaluating your decision. Research shows that the sooner you treat hearing loss, the better it is for you and your quality of life.
For more information on hearing loss and to take a free, quick, confidential, online hearing check to determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing care professional, visit www.BetterHearing.org. Follow BHI on Twitter @better_hearing. Like BHI on Facebook at www.facebook.com/betterhearinginstitute.