Is My Hearing Loss ‘Normal’ For My Age?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I receive in my practice. For some reason there is the common misbelief that as we grow older, we should accept hearing loss as the norm for aging. Why is this acceptable for hearing loss but not for vision? When we lose our vision, we fight tooth and nail to get that ‘perfect’ 20/20 vision restored, but not so with hearing loss.
My response to this question is; whether you are 10 years old or 10 times that age normal hearing, as documented on an audiogram, is 25 decibels or lower. That is the range of hearing considered ‘normal’ for the ability to hear all conversational speech. If your hearing thresholds fall below that normal range, you suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
Yet, even after being presented with this information, patients will still respond, “but I really don’t have a problem with my hearing.” However, often with greater probing and discussion, there is the admission of “ well I do have trouble hearing my spouse from another room” or “ I need to turn the TV volume louder” or “I’m unable to follow conversations in restaurants”, or the most ubiquitous one of all “ people are just mumbling.”
What I discovered when proceeding to explain what it means to have a hearing loss, there is complete misunderstanding. Most patients assume hearing loss means a complete loss of hearing. They assume they shouldn’t hear anything. When I explain that there is a difference between volume of speech and clarity of speech, the lightbulb pops on in their head! They now understand that although they may ‘hear’ that someone is speaking, they have no idea as to what was said. THAT is clarity. And ‘THAT’ can be corrected through amplification.
Sadly however, according to the World Health Organization, 430 million people worldwide are living with untreated hearing loss and this, unknowingly, can contribute to other medical consequences. Untreated hearing loss may lead to social isolation, loneliness, depression and may greatly impact your personal interactions. Studies also reveal that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to suffer from a variety of chronic diseases as well as cognitive decline.
So, whatever your age, any hearing loss will impact your ability to understand speech, will impact your social interactions and may possibly impact your long-term health.
Schedule that appointment to have your hearing evaluated and keep an open-mind regarding the benefits of amplification. Don’t settle for a lesser quality of life.