When your vision is going, you notice.
Words just aren’t as clear on the credit card machine at your local grocery store. You’re squinting and leaning back to see better. You hold your favorite book or magazine at arm’s length or with your nose right in the binding. And sometimes even that doesn’t help.
It may take a week or maybe a month before you’re willing to admit you need help. When it happens, though, it’s not long until you’re scheduling an appointment with an optometrist to find out just how bad it is and what you need to do to see better.
Vision helps you stay active, connected and mentally sharp.
Then there’s your hearing…which is a little different. It’s easier to ignore how many times you have to ask your son to repeat himself. You can laugh it off when your young grandkids blurt out that the TV’s too loud as they walk in for Sunday dinner.
It’s simply much easier to “cope” with hearing loss than it is to deal with vision loss.
That may be why the average person waits. And waits. And waits. They struggle with hearing loss up to 10 years before getting their first hearing aids. Can you imagine if you waited that long to get your first pair of reading glasses?
When it comes to the way they impact your life, vision and hearing aren’t as different as you might think.
Hearing and vision are two of the average person’s most important connections with the outside world. You see facial expressions, body language, artistic expressions and safety warnings with your eyes. You understand the world better. You feel connected.
You hear your friends’ voices, understand words and learn new things. You enjoy the beauty of music and the sound of house wrens building a nest out your back door.
It’s enough of a challenge to live without one of these core senses. Without either of these, communication becomes extremely challenging.
Yet, when one of these senses begins to decline, the other is likely declining at a similar rate. For every level on the vision chart you can’t read without corrective lenses, you’re 18% more likely to have hearing loss.
You may not be as quick to notice (or acknowledge) hearing loss as you are to admit and deal with vision issues. But this doesn’t change the fact that if your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, you should schedule a hearing test as well.
The fact people wait 10 years too long to get hearing aids isn’t just an inconvenience for the individual (and their family who need to repeat themselves). It’s a health hazard.
You may think that your ears are completely responsible for hearing. But your brain plays a huge role in the process. Unless you were born deaf, your brain has “wired” its communication center around your ability to hear.
When hearing loss slowly declines, as is common with age-related hearing loss, the brain is impacted as well. It very slowly forgets how to communicate. It forgets the difference between a “b” sound and a “d” sound. It can’t distinguish between a car horn and fire engine siren easily.
The longer a person waits to get hearing aids, the more the brain forgets about language and what different sounds “mean”.
Recall a time you spoke with someone of an advanced age, maybe your mother or father. Did you notice that sometimes they were confused by simple language or were unable to understand basic instructions?
This may sound like cognitive decline. But scientists now believe that, in many cases, this has a lot more do the brain’s inability to understand the words they are hearing.
Johns Hopkins researchers found that the brain actually shrinks as a person continues to leave hearing loss untreated. They were even able to see it on an MRI.
Numerous studies now indicate that getting hearing aids slows cognitive decline and decreases the risk of dementia significantly.
But what if you’re reading this later than you would like? Maybe you suspected 5 or 10 years ago that you needed hearing aids and you waited. Don’t worry: it’s not too late.
You can stop this cognitive decline in its tracks and start reversing it. Get fitted for hearing aids. Find a friend to practice “hearing”. Start in a quiet room and work your way up to a grocery store.
If your vision isn’t ideal, realize there’s a strong chance that your hearing is declining at a similar rate. It may go unnoticed until the hearing loss is severe, at which point the brain has already begun to lose some of its ability to communicate. Don’t wait. Get your hearing tested today.
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