Generally, hearing loss is considered to be an issue that influences our personal life. It’s an issue that is between you and your hearing professional and it’s about your health. It’s a personal, private subject. And that’s accurate, on an individual level. But hearing loss, when considered in a larger perspective, as something that impacts 466 million people, it’s necessary that we also understand it as a public health concern.
Now, generally speaking, that simply means that we should be considering hearing loss as something that affects society as a whole. So as a society, we need to consider how to deal with it.
The Cost of Hearing Loss
William has hearing loss. He just found out last week and against the advice of his hearing professional, that he can wait a while before looking into with hearing aids. Unfortunately, this affects William’s job performance; he’s begun to slow down in his work and is having a hard time keeping up in meetings, etc.
He also stops venturing out. 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 instead of going out, William isolates himself.
After a while, these choices add up for William.
- Economic cost: Ignoring his hearing loss can impact his income over time. As reported by the World Health Organization, hearing loss can lead to a certain magnitude of underemployment and unemployment. Because of this the world economy can lose as much as $105 billion in lost income and revenue. This quantity of lost income is only the beginning of the narrative because it ripples throughout the whole economic system.
- Social cost: William’s friends and family miss! His social isolation is costing him relationships. His friends could think he is ignoring them because they probably don’t even know about his hearing loss. It can seem like anger or insensitivity. His relationships are becoming strained because of this.
Why is it a Public Health Concern?
While on a personal level these costs will certainly be felt (William may miss his friends or be down about his economic situation), 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. Overall, his health can become affected and can lead to increased healthcare expenses. The costs then get passed down to the public if he’s uninsured. And so, in that way, William’s hearing loss affects those around him quite significantly.
Now multiply William by 466 million and you can get an idea of why public health officials look at hearing loss very seriously.
Dealing With Hearing Loss
Luckily, this particular health issue can be treated in two easy ways: treatment and prevention. When you correctly treat hearing loss (normally by using hearing aids), the outcome can be quite dramatic:
- You’ll be capable of hearing better, and so it will be easier to engage in many everyday social aspects of your life.
- With treatment for hearing loss, you might be capable of lowering your risk of several linked conditions, like dementia, depression, anxiety, or balance issues.
- The difficulties of your job will be more easily managed.
- Your relationships will improve because communicating with family and friends will be easier.
Encouraging good mental and physical health starts with dealing with 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 consider prevention. Public information campaigns seek to give people the insight they need to avoid loud, damaging noise. But even common noises can cause hearing loss, like using headphones too loud or mowing the lawn.
You can download apps that will keep track of sound levels and caution you when they get too loud. Safeguarding the public’s hearing in a broad and practical way (often via education) is one way to have a big effect.
A Little Help Goes a Long Way
Certain states in the U.S. are even transforming the way that health insurance treats hearing health. good public health policy and strong evidence have inspired this approach. When we alter our thinking about hearing loss, and about preventing hearing loss, we can significantly affect public health for the good.
And that helps everyone, 466 million and beyond.