Does it seem like everyone around you has started mumbling? Are you always asking people to speak up? Do you have to guess at the specials at your local restaurant because you can’t hear the waiter (…it’s always safe to assume there’s a pan fried salmon on the menu).
Age-related hearing loss can happen so slowly you don’t even notice it, until one day you’re at your favourite restaurant and it’s impossible to hear what on earth comes with the salmon? This understandably gets you cranky, and frustrated. It all feels exceedingly tedious.
If this sounds all too familiar to you, and the thought of missing out on the fish of the day – and all of its accompaniments – is causing you frustration and angst, it might be time to get your hearing tested, says Sally Woods, Head of Clinical Operations at Connect Hearing.
Hearing aids help you stay young. Yes, really
Now we know you might have been avoiding getting your hearing checked because, well, you don’t want to wear a hearing aid.
We get it.
But think about this: it may actually be MORE ageing not to have one (or two as the case may be).
Hear us out… as it were…
“Wearing a hearing aid these days doesn’t have to make you look old – but NOT wearing one will, because you’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves,” Sally says.
When you’re wearing hearing aids, life becomes far less stressful, because you’re able to participate more fully in what’s going on around you … and not be one of those annoying people (sorry), who’s constantly asking people to repeat themselves.
Hearing loss can be isolating – but it doesn’t have to be that way
Hearing loss can make you feel two things: invisible and isolated, says Sally.
There’s more, too. Not being able to hear conversation and sounds around you can be exhausting, especially if you’re constantly trying to make sense of what people are saying by reading their facial expressions (and sometimes without any context).
And now, thanks to COVID-19, wearing face masks has now made it near impossible to read those expressions at all.
Let’s face it, we can’t even recognise our own neighbours at the supermarket – hiding behind their floral facemasks – let alone hear what on earth they are trying to say.
“Often people say, ‘but I can still get by’,” Sally says. “But why would you just want to just get by when you can fly?” she says (such a philosopher our Sal!)
“The technology these days is absolutely amazing, high tech and discreet. There really is no need to just get by, or struggle with hearing loss.”
“There are so many options to help your hearing that simply weren’t around 10 or 20 years ago. It’s certainly worth checking out – most people are quite amazed,” she said.
Getting help with hearing loss reconnects you with the world
“Treating hearing loss is all about reconnection”, according to Sally, “… to those you love, your work and your social life, just for starters.”
And that’s not all – if you’ve been pretending you’ve got perfect hearing, when actually you haven’t, you need to know that denying you have a hearing problem can actually damage your relationship. Yes, really.
“We’ve had clients tell us we’ve actually saved their marriages,” Sally says. “It’s not unusual to find relationships close to breaking point because one of the two has a hearing loss and is in complete denial.”
“Or equally as common, the person with a hearing loss is aware of it, but won’t seek help – even though their partner is beyond exasperated.”
“It’s just amazing to see the reconnection spark in their relationship again once the hearing loss is addressed,” she said.
OK, so here’s the scientific bit about why it’s better to get tested sooner rather than later
So while we know it all starts and ends with a good love story, or a roaringly great relationship– there’s a whole lot of science that goes along with this too.
The part of the brain that responds to sounds is called the auditory cortex, and it’s made of millions of neurons.
“If those neurons aren’t stimulated for a long period of time, they start to feel neglected, and there’s a limit to how much they can be brought back to life,” Woods says.
“In terms of good hearing, it’s all about ‘use it or lose it’.”
That’s why early detection and treatment of hearing loss is critical – it’s all about keeping those neurons in the auditory cortex healthy and firing.
In fact, delaying treatment for hearing loss puts at risk the ability of those neurons to function properly in the future.
“In the auditory cortex, those nerves need to fire off in the right way to process information. It’s a critical pathway, and it all needs stimulation,” Woods says. It’s a lot like our marriages and love lives!
“If you know you have some hearing loss, and you choose to not do anything about it, the longer you wait, the harder it will be for the brain to adapt (and make good) if/when you do potentially wear a hearing aid.
“The sooner you take action, the better the potential outcome of a really fabulous hearing outcome assisted by smart, savvy, high tech new hearing aids,” she said.
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Look after the hearing you do have
Even if you have some hearing loss, you can still protect what you have left, says Sally.
“Be sensible,” she advises. “Don’t put things in your ears like cotton buds or bobby pins. Yep, I’ve seen it. And if you’re going to be in noisy environments, look after your hearing by using foam ear plugs or earmuffs.”
Also, use ear protection if:
- you’re seeing live music (Remember that? It’s a bit of a memory thanks to COVID)
- you’re using power tools, lawn mowers or whipper snippers or
- you work in noisy environments
Be aware also that noise damages our hearing based on how loud it is and how long we’re exposed to it.
For instance, listening to fireworks is less likely to do significant damage, because it’s quick. “But if you listen to three hours of loud music on a train, day after day, then that has the potential to do some damage,” Sally says.
If you listen to music with ear buds, by the way, the rule of thumb is that if someone standing next to you can hear the music, it’s too loud. And, look, quite frankly it can also be really annoying (sorry). And let’s not even start critiquing different music tastes …
Hearing care professionals are there to help
It’s important to know that it takes a little bit of time to adapt to hearing aids, regardless of how small and sophisticated they are. There’s always a period of transition while your brain adapts to the new sounds it has to process. But the payoff can be huge. And you’ll get help from people who really know what they’re talking about.
“You’ll get to work with a hearing care professional who will guide you through the adjustment phase,” says Sally, “and you’ll come out the other side and realise all that you’ve been missing.”
No more smart cracks from wait staff, you’ll be hanging on their every word and lingering condiment detail.
“People often say, oh, my goodness, is that really what I’ve been missing?” she laughs.
Online testing is quick and free
And there’s more good news – you can get the process started from the privacy and convenience of your own home.
Connect Hearing has pioneered a unique online hearing test you can do from home in only 5-10 minutes. And it won’t cost you a cent. Australian scientists Peter Blamey and Elaine Saunders developed this unique online speech perception hearing test because they wanted to make hearing health accessible for everyone.
So what’s stopping you? Take the first step now – it’s easy and won’t hurt a bit. Just think of everything you’ve got to gain!