Hearing Loss: The Invisible Handicap
Most of us take our hearing for granted. As one of our five senses, we rely on it in everything we do during our waking hours, from hearing the alarm go off to wake us in the morning to the sweet voices of our loved ones at the end of the day.
If the ability to hear diminishes, it’s usually a gradual process. It often starts with having trouble hearing softer voices, lower volumes on our car radios or listening devices, hearing a car horn in traffic, picking up what people in a group are saying to you and one another, or even being totally unaware someone is talking to you from a few feet away. After a period of time, you may find yourself struggling to perform at work, withdrawing socially, and feeling alienated and alone. You’ve placed yourself in psychological solitary confinement.
Hearing loss is considered the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults. As many as one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 experience a loss of hearing. That figure jumps to 50 percent at the age of 75 and over. The tragedy is that for most, treatment is as simple as using a hearing aid and yet only about 20 percent seek help. Those who do get tested wait more than 10 years – even after their diagnosis – to get fitted with one. By that time, their condition is so advanced they are for most practical purposes deaf.