Usually, hearing loss is thought of as a challenge that impacts our personal life. It’s about you and your well being, between you and your hearing professional. Personal. And that’s true, on an individual level. But when considering hearing loss in a broader context, as something that impacts 466 million people, it’s important that we also understand it as a public health issue.
That just means, generally speaking, that hearing loss should be thought of as something that has an impact on all of society. So as a society, we should think about how to manage it.
Hearing Loss Comes With Consequences
William just learned last week he has hearing loss and against the suggestion of his hearing professional, that he can wait a while before looking into with hearing aids. Unfortunately, this affects William’s job performance; it’s harder for him to follow along in meetings, it takes him longer to get his work done, and so on.
He also stops venturing out. It’s just too frustrating to keep up with all the layers of conversation (he feels like people talk too much anyway). So he isolates himself instead of 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 cause a certain magnitude of underemployment and unemployment. Because of this the world economy can lose something like $105 billion in lost income and revenue. This level of lost income is only the beginning of the narrative because it ripples through the whole economic system.
- Social cost: William misses his family and friends! His relationships are suffering due to his social separation. It’s possible that his friends don’t even know he has his hearing loss, so when he doesn’t hear them he seems aloof. They may be getting the wrong idea concerning his attitude towards them. His relationships are becoming tense because of this.
Why is it a Public Health Concern?
While these costs will certainly be felt on an individual level (William might miss his friends or be down about his economic situation), they also have an effect on everyone else. With less money to his name, William isn’t spending as much at the local shops. With fewer friends, more of William’s care will have to be performed by his family. His health can be affected as a whole and can lead to increased healthcare expenses. If he’s uninsured, those costs go to the public. And so, in that way, William’s hearing loss impacts people around him rather profoundly.
Now multiply William by 466 million and you can get a sense of why public health officials take hearing loss very seriously.
How to Treat Hearing Loss
The good news is, this particular health problem can be addressed in two easy ways: prevention and treatment. When hearing loss is managed properly (normally by using hearing aids), the results can be quite dramatic:
- It will be easier to engage in countless social functions if you can hear better.
- With management of hearing loss, you might be able to help lower your risk of several connected conditions, like dementia, depression, anxiety, or balance issues.
- The demands of your job will be more easily dealt with.
- Communicating with family and friends will be easier so you will see your relationships get better.
Encouraging good physical and mental health starts with dealing with your hearing loss. An increasing number of hearing professionals are making a priority of taking care of your hearing which makes a lot of sense.
Prevention is just as important. Public information campaigns aim at giving people the insight they need to avoid loud, damaging noise. But common noises such as mowing your lawn or listening to headphones can even result in hearing loss.
There are downloadable apps that can keep track of background decibel levels and give you a warning when things get too loud. One way to have a huge impact is to protect the public’s hearing, often via education.
A Little Help Goes a Long Way
In some states they’re even expanding insurance to cover hearing healthcare. good public health policy and strong evidence have inspired this approach. We can significantly impact public health once and for all when we adjust our thinking about preventing hearing loss.
And everyone is helped by that.