Contributed by Mandy Mroz, AuD, President, Healthy Hearing
We hear a lot about the smells and sights of autumn, from pumpkin spice to the brightly colored foliage. But what about the sounds? Whether it’s leaves crunching, a crackling fire or the honking of geese overhead as they fly south for the winter, your hearing is also an integral part of your ability to enjoy the changing of the seasons. So, how’s your hearing? In October, the American Academy of Audiology is encouraging you to remember how important your hearing is to your daily life, along with suggesting hearing screenings and hearing protection.
Audiologists serve patients of all ages
The American Academy of Audiology started Audiology Awareness Month in 2008 as a means of bringing awareness to hearing health and the importance of hearing protection. The Academy of Audiology, also known as AAA, exists to advance the profession of audiology by promoting an increased understanding of audiology and educating the public about the importance of hearing protection. Every October, through the distribution of printable materials, press releases and radio spots, AAA strives to promote national awareness by encouraging audiologists across the country to take action in their local areas.
Audiology Awareness Month also serves to educate the public about the role of audiologists when it comes to hearing healthcare. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 14,800 jobs for audiologists in 2016. Audiologists are health care professionals who are licensed to evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing loss and balance disorders. Some people may think audiologists are only for elderly people with age-related hearing loss, but nothing could be further from the truth. Audiologists have a valuable and varied role in treating the hearing health of people of all ages, from the very young to the very old. They perform hearing evaluations, fit hearing aids, evaluate tinnitus and diagnose dizziness and auditory processing disorders. They evaluate candidacy for cochlear implants, map cochlear implant electrodes and make adjustments to hearing levels as needed. Educational audiologists participate in creating education plans for children with hearing loss, fit assistive devices for children to use in the classroom and monitor the functionality of hearing aids and other equipment during the school day.
The statistics on hearing loss are shocking
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 37.5 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss is the third most common health condition faced by older adults after heart disease and diabetes, yet unlike those conditions, only 20 percent of those with hearing loss actually seek treatment. Unfortunately, the average amount of time a person with hearing loss waits to seek treatment after noticing a problem is between seven and 10 years. In that time, hearing can not only worsen significantly but can contribute to a variety of health issues, safety concerns and psychological problems.
In addition to highlighting the importance of hearing health and bringing attention to audiology, Audiology Awareness Month also alerts the public about the potential consequences of leaving hearing loss untreated. In multiple studies, untreated hearing loss has been linked to higher rates of depression, as well as anger, frustration and social isolation. Other studies have shown that those with untreated hearing loss have a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
October is a great month to get your hearing checked or to encourage a loved one to do so. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional in your area and start negating the effects of untreated hearing loss today.