Ordinarily, hearing loss is considered to be a challenge that influences our personal life. It’s about you and your well being, between you and your hearing professional. Private. And that’s true, on an individual level. But hearing loss, when regarded in a broader perspective, as something that affects 466 million people, we need to understand it as a public health issue.
Now, generally speaking, that simply means that we should be considering hearing loss as something that affects society overall. We need to consider how to deal with it as a society.
The Consequences of Hearing Loss
William just found out last week he has hearing loss and against the advice of his hearing professional, that he can wait a while before messing around with hearing aids. Williams job execution, regrettably, is being affected by his hearing loss; he’s begun to slow down in his work and is having a hard time keeping up in meetings, etc.
He also stops going out. It’s just too frustrating to keep up with all the levels of conversation (he feels like people talk too much anyway). So he isolates himself rather than going out.
These decisions will have a cumulative effect as time passes.
- Economic cost: Neglecting his hearing loss can impact his income over time. As reported by the World Health Organization, hearing loss can result in a certain magnitude of underemployment and unemployment. Because of this the world economy can lose around $105 billion in lost income and revenue. And that’s just the beginning as the effect of that lost income has a ripple effect throughout economic systems.
- Social cost: William’s friends and family miss! His social isolation is costing him relationships. It’s possible that his friends don’t even know about his hearing loss, so when he doesn’t hear them he seems distant. They may be getting the wrong idea about his behavior towards them. This puts added strain on their relationships.
Why is it a Public Health Issue?
While on a personal level these costs will certainly be felt (William may miss his friends or be down about his economic position), everyone else is also impacted. William doesn’t spend as much at local merchants because he has less money. More attention will need to be given to William by his family because he doesn’t have as many friends. Over-all, his health can become impacted and can result in increased healthcare costs. The costs then get passed down to the public if he’s uninsured. And so, people around William are effected quite significantly.
You can get an idea of why public health officials are very serious about this problem when you multiply William by 466 million people.
Treating Hearing Loss
Fortunately, there are a couple of fairly straight forward ways to help this particular public health concern: prevention and treatment. When you effectively treat hearing loss (normally through the use of hearing aids), the outcome can be fairly dramatic:
- Communicating with family and friends will be easier so you will see your relationships improve.
- Your risk of conditions like dementia, anxiety, depression, and balance issues will be lessened with management of hearing loss.
- You’ll be able to hear better, and so you’ll have an easier time participating in many day-to-day social areas of your life.
- The demands of your job will be more easily dealt with.
Promoting good mental and physical health begins with treating your hearing loss. A lot more hearing professionals are making a priority of taking care of your hearing which makes a lot of sense.
It’s just as important to think of prevention. Public information strategies seek to give people the information they need to steer clear of loud, damaging noise. But even common noises can cause hearing loss, like listening to headphones too loud or mowing your lawn.
You can get apps that will keep track of sound levels and caution you when they get too loud. One way to have a big effect is to protect the public’s hearing, often through education.
We Can go a Long Way With a Little Help
Certain states in the U.S. are even changing the way that health insurance deals with hearing health. good public health policy and strong evidence have inspired this approach. We can considerably impact public health once and for all when we change our thinking about preventing hearing loss.
And everyone is helped by that.