Hearing loss is more common than you might think, affecting over half of all Australians over the age of 60. It is often described as an invisible impairment, as it generally progresses slowly and most people learn tricks and strategies (ie. lip reading) to fill in the gaps. This, in conjunction with the stigma associated with hearing loss and hearing aids, has contributed to the fact people wait 7 to 10 years on average before seeking treatment. Some early signs that you, or someone you know, may have a hearing loss include increased difficulty hearing in noisy situations, others complaining that the TV is too loud, and frequently asking for people to repeat themselves. Even if you are unsure if you have hearing loss, it is always a good idea to get an audiometric test to objectively measure your hearing.

Why is hearing so important?

  • Conversation
  • Cognitive Health and Agility
  • Safety and Awareness

If you suspect you, or someone you know, are hard of hearing and are having increasing difficulties engaging in conversations, it is important to get it checked as soon as possible. 

More and more studies are showing that untreated hearing loss can lead to memory and cognitive decline of up 5 times faster than average. As the population ages and modern medicine enables us to live longer, we want to ensure we are ageing well and living as comfortably as possible. With research showing the links between hearing loss and cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and many other comorbidities, it has never been more important to check your hearing health.

Finally, hearing loss does not only affect our hearing and cognition, but also plays a role in our safety and awareness. Balanced hearing allows us to determine the direction sounds, providing spatial and environmental cues to keep you safe when walking or driving. Studies have also shown that even a mild loss can triple your risk of falls over the age of 40. Another important safety consideration is knowing when the fire alarm, carbon monoxide detector or doorbell is ringing. Thankfully with technology advances today there are devices with flashing lights or vibration motors to alert you in an emergency. 

In summary, hearing is not only important for understanding speech but also plays a vital role in maintaining healthy mental, social and physical wellness. For more information about hearing loss and dementia, visit dementia.org.au.

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