Think About Your Hearing This Month

October is not only the month of Halloween. It’s also National Audiology Awareness Month.

As the seasons shift, it’s a good time to consider your hearing — and maybe schedule an exam. Hearing loss is sometimes sudden and dramatic, but more often than not it is gradual and adapted to without conscious thought. Hearing loss may have already happened and you haven’t “noticed” it yet, though once tested it will become apparent that some of the sound spectra has been “turned off.”

Approximately 40 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing impairment. And the loudness of modern life — leaf blowers, traffic, high-volume music (especially listened to via earbuds), and any number of other activities that include exposure to high-decibel noise — will mean that number is sure to continue growing.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has found that the average amount of time between the first onset of hearing loss and when someone actually seeks treatment is 7 to 10 years. That’s a long time to hear less than is possible and is also a long stretch of time in which further complications — such as mental health issues and cognitive impairment — can take root.

The first Audiology Awareness Month was in 2008. The event is sponsored by the American Academy of Audiology.

For older people, hearing loss is the third most common health issue after heart disease and diabetes. But only 20 percent of people with hearing loss seek treatment. And with more and more evidence that untreated hearing loss is associated with the onset of dementia and other cognitive issues, it should be part of every older American’s basic health screening.

October is a great month to get started on taking care of your hearing health.

Hearing in the Workplace

A myriad of potential hazards falls under the category of workplace safety — including hearing loss.
The fact is that untreated hearing loss is now a management issue. With hearing loss becoming more common in younger people — at the same time that the retirement age is creeping up — hearing issues are just more likely to happen in the workplace today and moving forward.

The majority of the 40 million Americans with hearing issues are actually still in the workforce. It is estimated that more than 10 percent of the full-time workforce has a diagnosed hearing issue.

Since most jobs depend on good communication between workers and, in retail, with customers — it is inherent that the listening skills of workers be prioritized. And it’s hard to be a good listener with untreated hearing loss.

This is not only a management issue but also one for workers. A Better Hearing Institute (BHI) survey found that people with untreated hearing loss were likely to see a decrease in their income. In addition, people with significant untreated hearing issues were unemployed at double the rate of that of their fellow job seekers.

Efforts by employers to have their employees screened for hearing problems — as part of basic workplace health programs — are an obvious first step. BHI found that the use of hearing aids (which 8 out of 10 users report better their lives) found that income loss for those with mild hearing loss was reduced 90 to 100 percent after getting hearing aids. For those with severe to moderate hearing loss, income decline was reduced 65 to 77 percent.

As older workers become more and more a part of the employment landscape, hearing loss and corrective measures will have to become a greater emphasis for both employers and employees.