60% of 26 million people with hearing loss in U.S. are male

Males urged to get tested since they are more likely to hold noisy jobs

Special to the HeraldJune 13, 2012 

This Father’s Day, and throughout the week leading up to it — National Men’s Health Week — men are encouraged to be proactive with their health, including their hearing health.

When left untreated, hearing loss can disrupt family life, strain relationships and increase the likelihood of depression and other psychological problems.

Yet, millions of men with hearing loss never have even had a hearing test, either because of denial or lack of awareness that the symptoms they are experiencing are the result of hearing impairment. It’s no wonder that a hearing examination recently was labeled as the “most neglected health test for men” by MSN Health.

Sixty percent of the 36 million people with hearing loss in the United States are male, with a majority not seeking treatment for their hearing problems.

Despite the strong associations with many chronic conditions and diseases, most primary care doctors (more than 75 percent in surveys) do not typically ask their patients if they have hearing problems and often do not include a hearing exam as part of a routine physical.

Conditions that afflict millions of American men, such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, are associated with increased risk of hearing loss. Research also ties hearing loss to a three-fold risk of falling among working-aged people (ages 40 to 69), depression/anxiety, cognitive decline and reduced earnings.

In a 2010 study, researchers at the Better Hearing Institute found that people with untreated hearing loss may lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. The use of hearing aids, however, was shown to dramatically reduce the risk of unemployment and income loss.

Prevention is key.

Because men are more likely to have noisy jobs and hobbies, preserving hearing is critical to preventing problems in the future. Consistent use of hearing protection when in the presence of loud noise is an important part of maintaining a health auditory system.

Despite reluctance to do so, it’s important that men pay attention to their health. Diagnosis and treatment of a hearing loss may not only result in better hearing, but has the potential to significantly improve the quality of a person’s life.

The first step in treatment is a hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist.

Have more questions about hearing loss? Go to www.ColumbiaBasinHearing.com and click the “Hearing Resources” tab. A free interactive hearing check is also available to consumers online at www.hearingcheck.org, which is a service of the nonprofit Better Hearing Institute.

-- Kevin Liebe is an audiologist at Columbia Basin Hearing Center.

Facts about hearing loss

-- Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States

-- Approximately one in 10 Americans, or 36 million people have some degree of hearing loss.

-- More than half of the people with hearing loss are younger than age 65. Many of these people are still in the workforce

-- Fewer than 15 percent of physicians today ask patients if they have any hearing problems.

-- People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and less likely to participate in organized activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

-- The vast majority of people who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids report significant improvements in their quality of life at home, work and in social settings.

Source: Better Hearing Institute; American Academy of Audiology

Facts on men's health

-- A higher percentage of men have no health care coverage compared to women.

-- Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests.

-- Men make 1/2 as many physician visits for preventative care, compared to women.

-- Men are 28 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure.

-- Men are 24 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization.

-- Men are 32 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes and are more than twice as likely than women to have a leg or foot amputated due to complications related to diabetes.

Source: Department of Health & Human Services; Men's Health Network

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