The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) was founded in 1926 in order to advocate for people with communication disabilities and promote consistently higher standards for professionals in audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech and hearing science. For nearly a century, ASHA has designated May as Better Hearing and Speech Month (BSHM) in order to raise awareness and promote the importance of treatment for those with communication issues around speech and hearing.
This year’s theme “Building Connections” is appropriate after a year of social distancing as a tactic to slow the spread of COVID19. Now as the country slowly reopens and welcomes the warmer weather of Spring, it is a great time for many who have put off dealing with their hearing issues to finally take action.
Complications in Communication
The World Health Organization reports that hearing loss affects 5% percent or 430 million people worldwide and this number is projected to rapidly grow over the next 30 years to 700 million. This is alarming because, while hearing loss begins in the ears its effects are far-reaching. Starting with difficulties in conversation, hurdles in communication begin to contribute to social anxiety, chronic depression and self-isolation. While health complications can be specific, the systems of our body are very much entwined. Those who suffer from the emotional impact of hearing loss are less likely to stay active and connected. Those with untreated hearing loss are at a higher risk of falls, accidents and hospitalizations, due to a lack of awareness of sound cues in the environment. Hearing loss also raises the likeliness of developing cognitive decline and a higher risk of dementia.
The key is to treat this condition as soon as possible. While most cases of hearing loss are irreversible, they can be treated with hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the specific sounds you struggle with so you can communicate with much more ease, to the people in your life. When sounds that were previously muffled become amplified again you can begin to build connections between loved ones and professional relationships again. The sooner you invest in hearing aids the more likely you can avoid some of the devastating and irreversible side effects of hearing loss.
The issue for many is that they don’t realize they have a hearing loss at all. Hearing loss often starts gradually. There are always cases in which a person is exposed to a loud blast and loses a significant portion of their hearing in seconds, but for most, the process is so slow they may not notice. You may not realize that you can no longer hear the chirping of birds outside or the wind in the trees until someone else points it out. It can take years for a person to recognize they have hearing loss and by then it may be difficult to hear in even the most ideal of listening situations. At this point, the emotional and physical side effects of hearing loss have often been progressing to dangerous degrees.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Communication?
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and occurs when the cells of the inner ear which send audio information to the brain are damaged or destroyed due to exposure to loud noise, head trauma, certain medication use, infection or old age. It is often just a few cells at a time that are damaged, diminishing only some tones, pitches or consonants. At first, it may just be difficult to hear in a noisy setting, which is common even for those with healthy hearing. In other instances, it may be a challenge to hear certain speakers with higher or lower-pitched voices, or only some consonants or tones. This leaves huge gaps in sentences and words during a normal conversation and is the major reason why hearing loss is so detrimental to connections. While sounds may be intelligible during the early stages of hearing loss, the listener has to work overtime to hear what a person with normal hearing would have no trouble with. This can be exhausting and frustrating and begins to wedge gaps in closeness and connection in everyday relationships.
Today is the Day!
Use this May as a call to action. It’s been a wild year for connection, but this means it’s important to make an extra effort to treat yourself and your relationships right. Make an appointment to have your hearing checked today and detect a hearing loss before it can start to impact your connections.