Hearing loss may become noticeable as you begin struggling to hear conversations with your loved ones in a busy restaurant or you need to turn up the TV to be able to listen to your favorite TV program clearly. Safety can also be an issue with hearing loss – Imagine if you don’t hear the car behind you when walking in a busy city or if you cannot hear the fire alarm in your house.
Ten million people in the UK – one in six of us – have some degree of hearing loss. We tend to see this as an inevitable part of aging, but there’s growing evidence of wider health implications. It can lead to social isolation, which in turn can contribute to mental health problems such as depression. Research suggests that it may be linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.
However, people in the UK suffer on average for 10 years before they seek treatment for hearing loss. One reason for this, is worrying about being given a large and obtrusive hearing aid, however modern varieties and the latest technology render this belief to be false.
Another reason many people don’t seek treatment, is failing to notice their hearing is declining. It can be tricky to spot gradual hearing loss, in part because our brains have a surprising way to compensate without us being aware, by relying more heavily on our vision. This is something we can use to our advantage, to help us cope with hearing loss.
Neuroscientists once thought that dedicated parts of the brain dealt with hearing and vision separately, and only later was the information from these two senses put together. Now scientists know that our brain is ‘cross-referencing’ information from our senses at an earlier stage than we thought. One of the ways this benefits us is by helping in situations that are difficult for hearing.
For instance, as we age, hearing what someone is saying in a noisy environment like a restaurant can become very challenging. However, our vision can provide our brain with extra information, such as mouth movements and gestures. This make it easier and requires less effort to pick a person’s voice out of background noise and discern what they are saying
The following factors contribute to age-related hearing loss:
When your brain is deprived of sound stimulation, it loses the ability to process sounds. The longer you wait, the more sounds disappear and it takes more time to re-adapt.