There is a lot of evidence out there to remind people to stay active, moving and socializing. Physical fitness immediately comes to mind when thinking of staying active, but staying mentally active is equally as important, if not more so, for long-term health benefits.
Researchers who study longevity have shown that keeping connected to your family, home or work community is crucial to long-term mental health and can help you avoid a myriad of health issues such as dementia (including Alzheimer’s), heart disease and diabetes. There is now evidence that links hearing problems with those chronic conditions.
Nothing interferes with staying close to family, friends or co-workers more than hearing problems. It is worth noting that 65 percent of people who have hearing problems are below retirement age. This has a significant impact in the workplace.
A recent survey study by the U.S. Department of Education noted that participants aged 45-64 who had a hearing problem but no treatment (no hearing aids) felt they were being passed over for promotion much more often than their normal-hearing counterparts or their counterparts who had hearing problems but wore hearing aids. The study also found that those with unaided hearing problems were unemployed at a higher rate than their peers. Middle aged and older people with untreated hearing problems are also three times more likely to fall at work.
When a hearing problem affects a person at work, there is usually little sympathy among co-workers and supervisors. One reason may be that hearing problems are invisible. There is no outside visual evidence of an issue. Therefore, many suspect the hearing-impaired person of not paying attention, or worse, ignoring the co-workers or supervisor.
Having a hearing problem can be very hard to self-identify in the beginning stages because the brain so easily adapts and compensates for it. The human brain works hard to find the right words that make sense, compare what colleagues say to what they have said before, and uses other means to help you make sense of a conversation.
I have personal experience with this. I have a hearing problem and I am in the business!
My hearing loss came on gradually starting in my 40s. I only noticed it in really noisy places where I struggled to hear someone across from me. But in my mid-40s, I found that I was second-guessing at what my clients were saying during a critical testing segment for identifying hearing problems and solutions. I had to ask people to repeat themselves. It was then I realized I was suffering from the same difficulty that I was helping people with in my career.
My work was being affected, so I began to wear hearing aids right away, allowing me firsthand knowledge of the advantages of the latest hearing-aid technology. I can report from personal experience on how hearing technology works in the workplace, at home and in social situations.
If you find you are having more trouble lately hearing what your co-worker or supervisor is saying, or if you find yourself exhausted at the end of the day from trying to hear at work, it is time to get a hearing test.
Some physicians’ offices will screen for hearing and send you on for a comprehensive hearing evaluation if the screening shows a problem. Most health insurance plans cover a comprehensive hearing test. Some require a physician referral to an audiologist.
The most important thing to remember is that a hearing problem does not usually go away. The faster it is treated, the more natural your hearing will be, both at work and at home. Don’t let hearing problems keep you from being your best at home, work or in your community.