Importance of Early Identification of a Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is on the increase in South Africa and worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed hearing loss as the second most common condition affecting the most number of individuals worldwide. According to WHO there are 275 million people suffering from a moderate or greater hearing loss in the world and 37.6 million of these individuals reside in Africa.
The incidence of hearing loss is steadily increasing worldwide and this has been attributed to two factors: increase of an aging population, as well as an increase in noise induced hearing loss in youth. Noise induced hearing loss is increasing in the younger population due to an overuse of MP3 players or ear phones for listening to music or audio content.
Hearing loss can affect individuals of all ages and luckily with advanced screening and testing procedures we are able to identify a hearing loss from birth.
Hearing Loss in Infants and Children
When it comes to hearing loss in infants and children, audiologists face a race against the clock due to neural plasticity. The auditory cortex requires auditory input prior to the age of seven before neural reorganization occurs. The brain of a hearing impaired child reorganizes itself to rely more heavily on visual input should auditory input not be received before this age. It is for this reason that universal hearing screening is recommend for all infants at birth in order to ensure that children with a hearing loss are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Infants with hearing loss have the prospect of outcomes potentially matching those of their hearing peers provided the loss is identified early and intervention is initiated by 6–9 months of age. Early intervention includes treatment for any middle ear conditions, hearing aid fitting or cochlea implantation in severe cases.
Hearing loss in children is the leading cause of poor speech and language development, which eventually results in academic failure. Because a hearing loss can be mild in nature, these children are often not identified as having a hearing loss and therefore treatment is delayed.
Hearing Loss in Adults
There has been a lot of research conducted studying the importance of early identification and treatment of hearing loss in the adult population. Research suggests that most adults wait three to five years after their initial diagnosis of a hearing loss prior to seeking treatment with hearing aids and amplification. Unfortunately this delayed time frame can negatively affect the individual’s outcome and hearing aid success due to auditory deprivation.
Auditory deprivation occurs in the brain of a hearing impaired individual when there is a lack of auditory stimulation to the auditory nerve and cortex. Hearing loss is adults is progressive in nature and typically certain pitches or sounds cannot be heard correctly. In this case their auditory nerve slowly receives less and less information and stimulation, which can lead to deprivation over time. By treating an age-related hearing loss as early as possible we ensure the auditory nerve remains stimulated and the patients experience improved hearing aid outcomes.
Health Risks Associated with Untreated Hearing Loss
Individuals with an untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and social isolation as they are less likely to participate in social activities. This has a serious negative affect on a hearing-impaired individual’s quality of life.
Researchers have also identified a link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Individuals with an untreated hearing loss are up to 30% more likely to suffer from dementia or other progressive neurological diseases. A new study has found that hearing aids, when used properly and consistently, can slow down the rate in which older adults who suffer from hearing loss experience cognitive decline.
An individual who can hear what is going on around them, in conversations in particular, is more aware of their surroundings and are more participatory. Overall, this leads to less depression and less social isolation. By partially restoring communication abilities, hearing aids may help improve mood, increase social interactions, and enable participation in cognitively stimulating activities and consequently could slow cognitive decline.
Protect Your Hearing
Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears, but also helps your brain perform at its best. As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve brain functioning.
To book a hearing test, contact CVH Audiology on 011 615 3047.