At an AARP virtual event, Frank Lin, M.D., and audiologist Nicholas Reed, authors of the new 'Hearing Loss for Dummies,' spoke with AARP editor Neil Wertheimer about how to navigate hearing loss, including advice on new over-the-counter hearing aids.
Lin and Reed described how to tell if you or a loved one has hearing loss that needs to be treated, things you can do to protect your hearing, causes and treatment of tinnitus and the connection between dementia and hearing loss.
An estimated 15 percent of adults in the United States report trouble hearing, and that increases with age. About a third of people ages 65 to 74 and half of those over age 75 have hearing loss. But many people deny that their hearing is declining, due perhaps to stigma or the “slow and insidious nature of hearing loss,” Reed said.
So, how do you convince people who might need one to get a hearing test?
“If you think people are mumbling around you, I doubt they are mumbling. I think you most likely are hitting that hearing loss side,” said Reed, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
He said because hearing is related to so many aspects of everyday life, including cognitive processing and how you interact with others, “we should all get checked throughout our lifetime. Just get some baseline.” Lin said hearing loss might be the “single largest risk factor for dementia because of strain it puts on our brain, of how it can change your brain over time, of how it makes it harder to interact with others.” A new study has found that treating hearing loss could reduce that risk.
Protecting your hearing
Although some risk factors seem to elevate risk of hearing loss, including diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure, the most important way to protect your hearing is to limit long-term exposure to loud noises, Lin said, adding that duration and intensity of the sound both matter.