Hearing loss usually develops gradually, making it difficult to notice in many cases. People often suffer from impaired hearing for years before receiving the treatment they need. The average patient, in fact, waits seven years before seeking help. Untreated hearing loss leads to a number of potentially serious mental and physical health problems, including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety and deteriorating physical health.
It’s important to understand the links between your health and your hearing. By staying aware of your overall physical and mental health, you are better equipped to detect a hearing loss early. This allows an audiologist to treat your hearing loss more efficiently and effectively.
Following the Signs
In order to recognize hearing loss in you or a loved one, you need to know the signs and symptoms. Some typical behaviors among people with hearing loss include asking others to repeat themselves, zoning out during group conversations, struggling to hear women and children and turning up the volume on the TV and radio. There are also a few health problems that may indicate a hearing problem:
- A ringing in the ears—This symptom, called tinnitus, affects approximately 50 million Americans. It can indicate a number of health problems and is often a sign of hearing loss.
- Depression—As hearing loss develops, it becomes harder and harder for the person affected to connect with the world around them. As hearing and communication abilities decline, it can cause withdrawal, sadness, stress, anxiety and self-doubt.
Knowing Your Risk
Many health issues and treatments can cause hearing loss, and it’s important to understand if you are at risk so you can get your hearing tested regularly. There are more than 200 ototoxic medications known today, and they have all been directly linked to auditory system damage. Some of the most common ototoxic over-the-counter and prescription drugs include certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, loop diuretics, anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain relievers and salicylate pain relievers like aspirin.
Several health and medical problems are also directly link to hearing loss. These include Meniere’s disease, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, certain autoimmune disorders and infections including herpes, influenza, measles, mumps, syphilis and meningitis.