Generally, hearing loss is looked at as an issue that impacts our personal life. It’s about you and your well being, between you and your hearing professional. It’s a personal, private matter. And that’s accurate, on an individual level. But when considering hearing loss in a larger context, as something that affects 466 million people, we need to understand it as a public health matter.
That just means, generally speaking, that hearing loss should be thought about as something that has an effect on all of society. So as a society, we need to think about how to manage it.
The Cost of Hearing Loss
William has hearing impairment. He just found out last week and he’s decided he doesn’t really need to mess around with any of those hearing aids right now (against the recommendations of his hearing professional). Williams job execution, unfortunately, 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 spends significantly more time at home alone. There are just too many layers of conversation for you to try and keep up with (he feels like people talk too much anyway). So he self isolates instead of going out.
Over time, these choices accumulate for William.
- Economic cost: Neglecting his hearing loss can affect his income over time. Some unemployment can be caused by hearing loss according to the World Health Organization. Because of this the world economy can lose around $105 billion in lost income and revenue. This amount of lost income is just the beginning of the story because it ripples through the entire economic system.
- Social cost: William misses his friends and families! His relationships are suffering because of his social isolation. His friends may think he is ignoring them because they may not even know about his hearing loss. It can come across as anger or insensitivity. His relationships are becoming tense because of this.
Why is it a Public Health Issue?
While on a personal level these costs will undoubtedly be felt (William may miss his friends or be down about his economic position), everyone else is also influenced. William doesn’t spend as much at local merchants because he has less money. With fewer friends, more of William’s caretaking will have to be performed by his family. His health can be impacted as a whole and can lead to increased healthcare expenses. If he’s without insurance, those costs go to the public. And so, those around William are effected rather 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.
Managing Hearing Loss
Thankfully, there are two fairly simple ways to help this particular public health problem: prevention and treatment. When hearing loss is managed effectively (usually through the use of hearing aids), the results can be fairly dramatic:
- The difficulties of your job will be more easily dealt with.
- Communicating with friends and family will be easier so you will see your relationships get better.
- It will be easier to participate in many social activities if you can hear better.
- Your chances of conditions like dementia, anxiety, depression, and balance issues will be lessened with management of hearing loss.
Treating your hearing loss is one way to promote strong health, both physically and mentally. More and more hearing professionals are making a priority of taking care of your hearing which makes a lot of sense.
Prevention is equally as important. Insight about how to protect your ears from loud harmful noise can be found in many public health ads. But even common noises can result in hearing loss, such as listening to headphones too loud or mowing the lawn.
You can get apps that will keep track of sound levels and warn you when they get too loud. One way to have a big impact is to protect the public’s hearing, often with education.
We Can go a Long Way With a Little Help
In some states they’re even expanding insurance to address hearing healthcare. good public health policy and strong evidence have inspired this approach. We can dramatically affect public health once and for all when we change our thinking about preventing hearing loss.
And everybody is helped by that.