It’s not uncommon these days to hear about hearing loss. Millions of Americans live with it, whether they know it or not, and millions more are at risk of developing it in the coming years. The research coming out about hearing loss proves just how seriously we should be taking this chronic condition. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to:
While many of the studies, out of necessity, focus on those individuals who know they have hearing loss but leave it untreated, new research is looking at a group that is much harder to define. Those with hearing loss who don’t yet know they have it.
Unrecognized hearing loss
Unrecognized hearing loss may be more common than many of us realize, but experts are beginning to see that it is crucial now to identify and support those with hearing loss as early as possible. In the past, it has been difficult for researchers to identify and study this under-the-radar group, but a recent study provided the perfect opportunity to do just that. It resulted in something of a study inside of a study.
While completing a study on verbal memory among adults with diagnosed hearing loss, the team saw the unique opportunity to also study individuals with unrecognized hearing loss.
According to the team, older adults with and without hearing loss were recruited from the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), Wayne State University (WSU), and the greater Metropolitan Detroit community. This included 130 adults aged 55 to 85 years old.
While many joining the study had previously been diagnosed with hearing loss, those who reported normal hearing were tested for hearing loss. All study volunteers were asked to complete a subjective and objective assessment that included information on health, cognition and even personality traits. These assessments also included questions regarding hearing. According to the findings, “unrecognized hearing loss was identified in 30 volunteers who had described themselves as having no hearing difficulty.”
After controlling for age and gender, the team found that those with unrecognized hearing loss tended to stand out as having higher levels of positive affectivity – meaning, positive emotions such as cheerfulness, joy, and enthusiasm. Positive and negative affectivity is known to influence things such as our thoughts, performance, opinions and abilities. Could it also affect our perception of hearing ability?
While more research is needed, the team believes that those with higher positive affectivity may discount changes in hearing.
What this means for the future
These findings highlight the need for more comprehensive screenings that do not rely solely on self-report questionnaires but instead give health care providers the training and framework to identify potential hearing loss better and refer patients for hearing screenings and assessments.
Earlier identification and better screening practices could make all the difference when it comes to treating hearing loss and avoiding associated health concerns.
For now, the most important step you can take is to schedule a hearing evaluation. Whether you believe you have hearing loss or not, an annual check is a must.
During a hearing evaluation, your hearing healthcare provider will collect information about your health history and current health and lifestyle as well as completing an examination of your ears. He or she will then conduct a series of tests to determine if there is hearing loss. Once the type and extent of hearing loss are determined, your provider will work with you on treatment options.
Don’t let your rosy outlook and undiagnosed hearing loss hamper your health. Schedule a hearing evaluation today to start managing your hearing health.