Most of the 28 million Americans living with untreated hearing loss may be unaware that failure to take corrective action could result in the brain actually "forgetting" how to hear and understand speech, according to audiologist Cindy Beyer, AuD, senior VP, HearUSA, West Palm Beach, Fla.
"When the brain is insufficiently stimulated by sound over a period of time, it can lose a portion of its ability to process information," said Beyer in a statement released by the company. "This condition is called auditory deprivation, and studies indicate that the longer a patient goes without treatment the more likely it is that the brain will forget how to process speech, even after treatment is implemented."
Beyer added that "these findings strongly suggest that delaying treatment for hearing loss for years, as so many do, can risk permanently impairing the brain’s ability to understand speech."
Beyer cites the following:
- Thirty-six million Americans experience hearing loss. (American Academy of Audiology)
- While the vast majority of Americans (95%) with hearing loss could be successfully treated with hearing aids, only one in five currently use them. (University of California, San Francisco Department of Neurological Surgery)
- People with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking help. (Center for Hearing and Communication)
- Those who have difficulty hearing can experience such distorted and incomplete communication that it seriously impacts their professional and personal lives, at times leading to isolation and withdrawal. (Better Hearing Institute)
- Nine out of 10 hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life. (Better Hearing Institute)
What are the indications of hearing loss? Beyer says any one of these can be a symptom:
- You feel that people mumble and don’t speak clearly
- You understand some people better than others
- You have difficulty understanding phone conversations
- Family and friends comment on the need to repeat themselves
- You have difficulty following a conversation in a crowded room
- People complain that you turn up the volume on the television to an uncomfortable level
- You have ringing in your ears
Noting that, in most cases, the progression of hearing loss is subtle, becoming greater and greater over time, Beyer recommends yearly hearing examinations and urges those diagnosed with hearing loss to promptly seek treatment and avoid the risk and consequences of auditory deprivation.
HearUSA provides hearing care through the HearUSA hearing care network of 1,900 affiliated audiologists in 49 states and in more than 190 company owned hearing care centers.