We generally think of hearing loss in personal terms. It’s about you and your health, between you and your hearing specialist. Private. And on an individual level that’s accurate. But hearing loss, when regarded in a larger context, as something that affects 466 million people, we need to understand it as a public health matter.
Now, generally speaking, that simply means that we should be looking at hearing loss as something that affects society overall. We need to consider how to deal with it as a society.
The Cost of Hearing Loss
William just learned last week he has hearing impairment and against the suggestion of his hearing professional, that he can wait a bit before messing around with hearing aids. Williams job execution, unfortunately, is being impacted by his hearing loss; he’s begun to slow down in his work and is having a difficult time following along in meetings, etc.
He also spends a lot more time at home alone. There are just too many layers of conversation for you to keep up with (he feels like people talk too much anyway). So he isolates himself instead of going out.
Over time, these choices accumulate for William.
- Economic cost: Neglecting his hearing loss can impact his income over time. Some amount of unemployment can be a result of hearing loss according to the World Health Organization. Combined, this can cost the world economy something like $105 billion in lost income and revenue. This quantity of lost income is just the beginning of the story because it has a ripple effect through the entire economic system.
- Social cost: William’s friends and family miss! His social separation is costing him relationships. It’s feasible that his friends don’t even know he has his hearing loss, so when he is unable to hear them he seems aloof. They may be getting the wrong idea concerning his attitude towards them. His relationships are becoming tense due to this.
Why It’s a “Public Health” Issue
While on an individual level these costs will definitely be felt (William might be having a difficult time economically and socially), they also have an impact on everyone else. William isn’t spending 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. As a whole, his health can become affected and can result in increased healthcare costs. If he’s without insurance, those expenses go to the public. And so, people around William are impacted quite significantly.
Now take William and multiply him by 466 million and you can get an idea of why public health officials look at hearing loss very seriously.
How to Treat Hearing Loss
Fortunately, there are two pretty straight forward ways to help this specific public health problem: prevention and treatment. When hearing loss is managed properly (typically by wearing hearing aids), the results can be fairly dramatic:
- Communicating with friends and family will be easier so you will notice your relationships get better.
- The difficulties of your job will be more easily managed.
- Your risk of conditions like dementia, anxiety, depression, and balance issues will be lessened with management of hearing loss.
- It will be easier to engage in countless social functions if you can hear better.
Dealing with your hearing loss is one way to stimulate good health, both physically and mentally. An increasing number of hearing professionals are making a priority of taking care of your hearing which makes a lot of sense.
Prevention is equally as important. Public information strategies seek to give people the insight they need to steer clear of loud, damaging noise. But even everyday noises can lead to hearing loss, such as listening to headphones too loud or mowing the lawn.
You can get apps that will monitor noise levels and caution you when they get too loud. One way to have a huge effect is to protect the public’s hearing, often through education.
A Little Help Goes a Long Way
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 significantly impact public health once and for all when we adjust our thinking about preventing hearing loss.
And everyone is helped by that.