According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans (20 percent) report some degree of hearing loss. While hearing loss is third most common physical condition behind arthritis and heart disease, affecting people of all ages it is a disability that can be invisible to most people. While it may seem too vulnerable for people who suffer from hearing loss to admit that they have a disability, the benefits of disclosure can only help and protect individuals who suffer.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or has a record of such an impairment. While this definition is expansive, the many ways in which disabilities can appear and affect someone’s life, we as a society in the name of speed and industry often can be insensitive in recognizing, understanding, and engaging with the many ways in which disabilities can be expressed.
Fortunately, we have created protections for people with disabilities in the US in order to make space for people of all abilities. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability.
Like most hidden disabilities, hearing loss comes with baggage that contributes to people’s reluctance to be open about the condition. Hearing loss is often considered a sign of old age, even though it is a condition that can affect people of all ages. impairment and declining mental capacities. But this secrecy can have a deleterious effect on professional and personal relationships, affecting job performance and mental and physical health. Living with this secret is debilitating. It can undermine your confidence. Most likely not being honest with yourself and others will affect your job performance. You can get stuck in a loop of constant worry that your employer or your colleagues will find out and you’ll lose your job. It is important to remember that firing someone for a disability is forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Hearing loss isn’t just an ear issue; it’s a quality of life and health issue. Untreated hearing loss can have serious consequences. A decrease in hearing sensitivity is associated with diminished cognitive function, poorer mental health, and social withdrawal. Researchers and hearing care professionals have long understood the link between cognition and hearing acuity. When you are listening to someone speak your brain is processing the sound so that you can understand it. A listener with untreated hearing loss is trying to understand degraded speech signals therefore their brain has to work harder to process those sounds. While your brain is busy working to understand incoming speech signals other tasks like memory and comprehension can suffer.
Fortunately, hearing loss is treatable. According to the Better Hearing Institute, 95 percent of Americans with hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids and individuals who treat their hearing loss early have shown significant benefit. Almost all the symptoms that develop with untreated hearing loss can be avoided the sooner you choose to treat your hearing loss.
The first step in creating awareness of your invisible disability is to simply disclose that you have hearing loss. This disclosure is often not simple at all; however, it is important that you become accustomed to it. When you establish your hearing needs with those around you, you will not only improve communication but likely your overall well-being.
Every time that you disclose your hearing loss, you are taking steps to advance the needs of all people who suffer from your invisible disability and its impacts on everyday life. If you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t wait any longer. Contact us at Hearing Aid Specialists of the Central Coast so we can test your hearing and get you on the path of healthy hearing.