We usually think of hearing loss as a condition mostly affecting aging adults. The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that approximately one-third of people ages 65 to 74 and almost half of individuals 75 years and over experienced some form of hearing loss in a 2010 study. Of greater concern to me is the fact that only about 20% of those with a treatable hearing loss seek help. Untreated hearing loss comes with a number of costly social, health, and financial consequences.

Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss for Adults

When hearing loss remains untreated, it reduces a person’s quality of life and threatens their independence. An inability to understand and communicate with family and friends often leads to withdrawal from family, friends, and social gatherings. Additionally, adults with an untreated hearing loss are dependent upon others to assist them with everyday tasks that require hearing as an integral part of communication.

The inability to communicate leads to social withdrawal, often taking its toll on a person living with hearing loss in the form of depression and anxiety. However, these are not the only mental health-related consequences of leaving hearing loss untreated. A link to cognitive decline is among the most serious of the possible mental health issues. A 2012 Johns Hopkins study established a 50 percent increased risk in developing dementia and a 40 percent risk of developing depression in patients with an untreated hearing loss.

Untreated hearing loss in adults also contributes significantly to increased costs for health care. Balance and other issues related to inner ear function lead to more frequent and more prolonged hospitalizations along with increased admissions and more ER visits with cost increases averaging about 46 percent for a total of $22,434 per person over a decade, according to a separate 2018 study at Johns Hopkins.

Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss for Children

Although hearing loss mostly affects aging adults, children, and young adults also experience it as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that of the 466 million individuals diagnosed with a hearing loss worldwide, 46 million of them are children. As bad as untreated hearing loss is for adults, it has much more severe consequences for children. Children can suffer from the same issues of depression and anxiety, decreased quality of life and independence, and cognitive decline. Worse yet, children with a hearing impairment usually struggle with acquiring language and developing social skills. Failure to develop in this area leads to speech delays and poor academic performance. These are consequences that negatively impact children throughout their lifetime.

What to Do If You Suspect Hearing Loss

Regardless of whether you suspect a hearing loss in an adult or child, it is critical to seek help as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss allow audiologists to provide the most effective solutions before conditions worsen. Scheduling a hearing assessment is the first step in receiving the help needed to prevent hearing loss from getting worse. An audiologist has the expertise and equipment necessary to identify and treat hearing loss as well as provide guidance related to avoiding additional damage.

The team at Alabama Hearing Associates, and I are passionate about preventing the costly consequences of an untreated hearing loss. I encourage those who suspect that they or a loved one are experiencing a hearing loss to come in for a hearing assessment as early as possible rather than taking a wait and see approach. We provide excellent hearing care to individuals of all ages in North Alabama and the Tennessee Valley. Contact us to learn more about how Alabama Hearing Associates can prevent further damage from hearing loss or set up an appointment for a hearing test.

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Dr. Susan Sheehy

Dr. Sheehy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in audiology at the University of Alabama before beginning her career as a clinical audiologist in Huntsville. In 2005, she received her doctorate in audiology from Salus University. Dr. Sheehy is one of a specialized subset of audiologists certified in tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). By appointment from the governor, she has served as a member and chairperson of the Alabama Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.
    Basic Hearing Test

    A basic hearing test begins with an air conduction test. You will be seated in a soundproof booth and single-use, foam earphones will be inserted into your ear canals. The Audiologist will ask you to push a button or raise your hand when you barely hear a series of beeps (tones) presented at various frequencies (pitches) to obtain your air conduction thresholds.

    To determine whether your hearing loss is a conductive (mechanical) loss, sensorineural (permanent) loss or combination of the two, we perform a bone conduction test.  

    For this test, a head band is place on the bone behind one of the ears to obtain your bone conduction thresholds. This process provides a different form of sound transmission using vibration, which bypasses the eardrum and the middle ear bones and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. When you hear the beeps/tones, you will push a button or raise your hand.

    If bone conduction thresholds are better than air conduction thresholds (through the foam inserts), you have a conductive hearing loss. This suggests a problem with the mechanical structures (moving parts) of the ears.

    Conductive hearing loss is often a medically treatable condition for which we will provide you with a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician. However, if bone and air conduction thresholds match, it indicates a sensorineural hearing loss (permanent), and the treatment will likely involve hearing aids.

    ALL INCLUSIVE PLAN

    $6,790

    Comprehensive 5-Year treatment plan with premium technology

    If you want premium “out of this world” technology and the highest level of service and expert support, our All-Inclusive treatment plan is the right investment for you.

    The All-Inclusive treatment plan offers long-term value for your on-the-go lifestyle, providing everything you need to connect with family and friends for years to come.

    Includes:

    • Stellar hearing devices from top manufacturer (rechargeable option available)

    • Wireless accessory included at no charge

    • Comprehensive Annual Visit including hearing assessment, hearing device adjustment, and 19-Point preventative maintenance valutaion

    • Bi-annual hearing aid software update and reprogramming

    • Same day diagnosis and in-office repair during weekdays for devices dropped off before 3:00 p.m.

    • 5-Year full-service repair warranty

    • Unlimited remote hearing aid adjustments

    • 100% moisture removal by Redux and cleaning

    • Hearing aid supplies (stock receivers, batteries, domes and filters)

    • $1000 contribution towards purchase of upgraded technology within 48 months

    • 3-Year replacement warranty for loss or damage (no deductible)

    • Dedicated team of hearing care experts at your service

    • Unlimited teleaudiology appointments

    • Access to our “speed of light” repair specialists

    Schedule Appointment

    Choose Your Level of Technology

    A Comprehensive12-Step Functional Hearing Assessment

    If you struggle to understand conversations in social situations, restaurants, or other noisy environments, you do not need to schedule a basic hearing test. You certainly don’t need to schedule a “free” hearing screening or online hearing test.

    You need to schedule a “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment at Alabama Hearing Associates!

    Hearing Technology with a Methodical Plan

    Our community understands better than most what can be achieved when you combine technology with human intelligence and persistence. It is much the same with hearing technology.

    The latest hearing aid technology is incredibly powerful, offering stellar sound quality and performance. Wireless connections allow phone calls, music and television to stream directly to your hearing aids for exceptional clarity.

    But hearing aids do not fit and program themselves! For best outcomes, you also need the human touch and expertise provided by our Doctors of Audiology.

    How do I know my new hearing aids are working properly?

    Without verifying that the hearing aid is working correctly from the start, all of the other steps in the hearing aid fitting process are useless. The most sensitive quality control measure is something called Electroacoustic Analysis. We complete EAA on every new set of hearing aids, before delivery of repaired devices, and on an annual basis.

    What Is Real-Ear Measurement?

    Real-ear measurement (REM) is how an audiologist knows that hearing aids are working the way they should in each patient’s ears.

    Ears are as unique as a fingerprint. Because of this, every ear will collect sounds differently.

    Even if I had two patients with the exact same hearing loss and hearing aids, there’s almost no chance the hearing aids would be programmed the same way.

    Orientation, Counseling, and Follow-up

    Dr. Cliff (the creator of the Best Practice Pro Network) said it best:

    “Having a detailed orientation can dramatically improve how much success you have with hearing treatment.  Counseling & Follow-up care can also ensure that you have success for years to come.  Regular visits to a hearing care provider who spends the time to discuss treatment related information and who will maintain your devices is extremely important.”

    During the orientation, your provider will give you the tools you need to be a successful hearing aid user. Everyone has different learning styles and we want to make sure whatever works best for you is what’s used. After the 75 day adjustment period, routine checkups are necessary to maintain the hearing aids and to ensure optimal hearing healthcare. 

    Real World Adjustments

    Your hearing loss didn't occur overnight, so it will take some time to adjust to the hearing aids. Your patience and persistence will be well worth it.

    Wireless Connections

    Most hearing aids automatically come with wireless streaming from smartphones and it has been a lifesaver for those that are working remotely and spending hours on teleconferences. As for other wireless accessories, the two most popular solutions are a small microphone used in less-than-ideal listening environments and a TV streamer that streams the TV’s sound directly into your ears—which can be a lifesaver when watching British TV shows or during football season. If your audiologist believes they would be beneficial for you, they will discuss your options and demonstrate the device in the office.

    Assessing Outcomes

    To ensure the most success with your hearing devices, we measure the benefits of amplification at the end of your adjustment period—some of the surveys and tests included in the “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment will be repeated to evaluate progress, quality of life, and patient satisfaction with the hearing aids.