By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Last week I wrote about vision issues. It seems fair to give hearing issues their fair share of time.

The statistics for hearing issues are interesting. About 17 percent of the adult population (36 million people) have some hearing loss. For the age group 65 – 74 years, about 1/3 have hearing loss. After age of 75, the number increases to 1/2 the population. That makes it one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in older adults.

Of the group who would benefit from hearing treatment only 20 percent bother doing so. It takes about 10 years for most individuals diagnosed with chronic hearing loss to actually get a set of hearing aids. As the baby boomers continue to age hearing problems will affect more and more individuals.

One of the main issues with hearing loss is that it occurs gradually, you don’t wake up one morning and suddenly are not able to hear any longer. That allows denial to play a large role in the delay of treatment.

The first sign is often subtle. Individuals find that it is harder to hear things when there is background noise present. Usually the first person to diagnose hearing issues is the spouse. They often become frustrated with their partner for things that are missed or heard incorrectly. 

One might wonder what’s the big deal if there is partial hearing loss. It is not a surprise that there have been multiple medical studies that have examined that question.

They have found that individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to be depressed. Those individuals are more likely to have anxiety issues. The interesting thing about the studies is what happens when hearing aids are then added. The individual tends to have a better quality of life. The same was true for improved quality of life for their spouse!

A more recent study found that individuals with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia. Those with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely. Those with severe hearing loss were five times as likely.

The approach is simple. If you are over age 65, you have a one in three chance of having hearing loss. The solution is to get your hearing checked. If you are over age 75, you have a 50-50 chance of having hearing loss. The solution is to get your hearing checked.

Vision impairment affects fewer adults than hearing loss. However, we see very few individuals who choose to not get their vision checked. We see very few who will not wear glasses.

The good news is that getting a  hearing test does not necessarily mean you have a hearing problem. However, since we know that hearing loss is a gradual process, getting a baseline result for later comparison makes a lot of sense.

We use our hearing to communicate with the world around us. You wonder why we would not address something that impairs that interaction. We do not do that with vision changes.