Do you hear what’s going on around you?
Worse, if you don’t, do you consider your hearing loss just a normal part of aging?
Are you aware that hearing loss has been associated with poor thinking and memory ability and can lead to social isolation, depression and dementia?
Of the 4.5 million 50- to 59-year-olds in the United States experiencing hearing loss, only about 4.3 percent are using hearing aids.
Another little-known fact: Hearing loss could cost you as much as $30,000 this year, says Dr. Ellen Finkelstein, a New York-based audiologist.
An expert at identifying difficult-to-diagnose hearing issues, she is a frequent guest on national radio and TV programs discussing the impact of hearing loss on employability.
Q: Why so much hearing loss today?
A: Noise creates more hearing loss, and there’s no argument we’ve grown up with more noise — recreational noise — than any other generation.
Q: So we use iPods. So what?
A: Lots of things. High blood pressure, for example. Noise reduces the flow of blood to the brain. Then there is the absence of other noises. Too much wax in our ears or those iPods? We are living longer today. All these factors can contribute to hearing loss.
Q: And why is this a problem?
A: Well, the national unemployment rate is hovering around 8.6 percent and there is an indication that hearing loss is contributing and costing us an estimated $176 billion a year due to underemployment.
A study published by the Better Hearing Institute revealed that people with severe hearing loss had a 15.6 percent unemployment rate, or double the normal hearing population and nearly double those who use hearing aids.
If you suspect you having hearing loss and don’t get treatment, it can cost you dollars.
But hearing aids are not covered by most health insurance and can cost up to $35,000.
Flip it and consider the quality-of-life issues. Aids also last awhile. The improved quality of life is reason enough to get an assessment.
Q: What kind of assessment?
A full evaluation by an audiologist who has a doctoral degree and knows how to administer the test properly. You should be able to get a referral from your doctor.
Q: Hearing aids are so obvious.
A: Not anymore. There are excellent advancements in technology.
You need to see what an aid can do to help you with your daily activities. And you need to find an aid that is cosmetically appealing.
They can be discreet and include speech enhancers.
Q: So what’s the bottom line?
A: Have an annual hearing exam. Wear protective ear coverings if you work in a noisy area. Get proper counseling and training if you are using a hearing aid.