Statistics on the incidence of hearing loss in the United States have risen alarmingly in recent years. According to the NIDCD, approximately 17 percent (36 million) of adults report some degree of hearing loss. Not unremarkable is that fact that the older one gets, the greater the chance of hearing loss: 18 percent of adults 45-64 years old, 30 percent of adults 65-74 years old, and 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing loss to some degree. What is most remarkable, however, is that only one out of five people who could benefit from hearing aids actually wears them.
There are various reasons why people don’t wear hearing aids, but, undoubtedly, the first step to managing a hearing loss is acknowledging it and visiting an audiologist for a hearing evaluation. Untreated hearing loss causes a myriad of problems; and the longer someone puts off this important step, the harder it is to do it. Family members become grudging enablers and soon the person with a hearing loss is marginalized. Untreated hearing loss causes communication barriers—and that means isolation, depression, and paranoia, all of which lead to physical malaise. It doesn’t make sense to ignore a hearing loss.
Many people just give up because they don’t know what to do or who to talk to. But there’s help—and one of the best-kept secrets around! The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is the nation’s leading organization representing people with hearing loss. We provide information, advocacy, and support. Membership in HLAA includes the bi-monthly Hearing Loss magazine, packed full of useful information about technology and advocacy. At the state level, our free newsletter, Sound Waves, is published quarterly and is posted online (or may be mailed for a small fee).
The Hearing Loss Association of Washington (HLA-WA) has chapters located throughout our state. They meet monthly and offer a safe environment to share concerns and talk to others who live successfully with hearing loss. Chapters programs often include coping strategies and information on assistive devices—all things that allow people with hearing loss to function in a hearing world and lead productive lives. Best of all, these meetings are informal, fun, and are open to friends and family—and they’re free. Hearing loss requires attention—but it’s not hopeless!