Susheel is a professor. He teaches several classes in a day, and spends the rest of his time having academic discussions with his peer group and his students. In the evenings, Susheel meets with his friends Pradeep and Kumar over a game of badminton. Pradeep is a software engineer, while Kumar is a businessman.
One evening, the three of them were having a discussion about their work. Susheel said that their university is conducting a health camp for people over 50 years of age. He invited Pradeep and Kumar to get themselves tested too. He said, “once we cross the age of 40, we should make sure that our body is healthy. We need to be careful of things like BP, sugar and cholesterol. For as long as we live, we need to live a healthy and independent life!”
His friends agreed and added that vision is important too.
So, on the day of the health camp, they all had a comprehensive health check up that involved the assessment of their blood pressure, BMI, vision and hearing among many other screening tests.
Pradeep was asked to watch his cholesterol levels, while Kumar was asked to watch his blood pressure. They both blamed their work and their bosses for their failing health! Susheel, on the other hand, was told that his health was perfect! Well, everything, except his hearing.
“This is why academia is the best! Look at me! I am balancing my work and family so well. I follow strict dietary rules. This is why my health is perfect!” he said.
“Oh please! You are growing old. Your hearing is already getting poor. In no time, you’ll be deaf!” said Pradeep.
“You better get yourself tested at a hearing clinic! Being in a profession where communication is so important, hearing health is crucial, isn’t it?” asked Kumar.
“Everyone has some trouble hearing! I have never felt such a difficulty at work so far. Why should I bother too much right now? I am hearing well enough for a 59 year old now!” defended Susheel.
“That’s because you address large classrooms so often that you academics always speak loudly, you fool! You have a PhD, but have you no common sense? Get yourself tested!”
After much persuasion by his friends, Susheel had his hearing tested at a hearing clinic, in a sound-treated room. The audiologist told him that his hearing had begun to deteriorate, and needed to consider wearing hearing aids at the earliest to avoid further progression of his hearing loss. Susheel did not pay much attention to what the audiologist told him and decided to wait a few more years.
Likhit is a 38 year old accountant. He keeps complaining about not being able to hear so well. His wife thinks that he just doesn’t pay attention to what she is saying. Years ago, his family physician had asked him to check his hearing levels, but he thought nothing was so wrong with hearing that he needed to consult a professional. “None of my colleagues or friends think I have trouble hearing. I don’t need any test” he said when his wife asked him to have his hearing assessed.
On one beautiful morning, Likhit went into his office in a perky mood. Everything seemed to be in control. As he sat down at his desk, his boss told him, “we need to talk”.
“Oh no! Something must be wrong!” Likhit thought! He was very nervous.
When he entered his boss’s cabin, his boss motioned him to sit down.
“Likhit, how have you been feeling? Is everything alright at home?” his boss asked.
Likhit nodded quietly and wondered where his boss was getting at.
“Why I ask you is that, I have been finding inconsistencies in the accounts lately. Is everything alright? The numbers are all over the place!” he said. “Haven’t you been able to hear what we speak during the meetings?”
Likhit was shocked! He went back to his notes during the meeting and checked them! All the information in his notes matched with what the numbers showed! He was confused.
He went back to his boss and showed him the same.
His boss was perplexed. “I never told these numbers, Likhit! Can you not hear?” he asked, clearly annoyed.
At that moment, Likhit decided that he had to get his hearing tested. His career and his entire life was at stake!
The very next day, he visited an audiologist who tested his hearing levels. She informed him that he had hearing loss and needed hearing aids so that he could hear better. He took the audiologist’s advice and wore the hearing aids at all times.
Likhit wondered if this whole situation could have been avoided if he had only tested his hearing years ago, when his wife had suggested it to him. His audiologist had said that his hearing had probably deteriorated over time. Had he waited around to become ‘old enough’ to wear hearing aids, his hearing would have deteriorated so much that he would feel handicapped. Not only that, his audiologist had also informed him that his memory and attention also would have become poor with age. “Wow! What a way to live that is!” he thought.
There are many Likhits and Susheels in this world. It is unfortunate that hearing health is not a priority for most people. They want to postpone wearing hearing aids, or even getting their hearing tested as much as they can. Some of them don’t want to spend money right now and save the same for their children or their future. When they grow old, they want to save money for their grandchildren. There are always other more important things for them to spend their money on rather than hearing aids. The reason they postpone could also be because hearing loss is seen as an ‘old people’s disease’. “What will people think looking at me wearing hearing aids?” they think. People don’t want to accept their ageing - be it at 38 or at 90! They never feel that they are old enough to wear hearing aids. What people don’t factor in is what all they lose or miss out on because of postponing hearing management!
Hearing loss not only affects communication, but it also causes social isolation, depression, anxiety, poor cognitive abilities such as loss of memory and critical thinking skills. Studies also suggest that hearing loss is one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease! At a young age, these problems seem far fetched and one may also feel that all these issues could be caused due to several other factors. However, any lack of stimulation to the brain could hamper its functioning to a large extent. This includes lack of stimulation through the hearing sense.
Sure, some people acquire hearing loss later in life than others, and sure, a major factor for hearing loss is ageing. But, the human auditory system is unique to each individual. So is ageing. There may also be several other factors that could have aggravated the hearing deterioration including exposure to noise, lifestyle, genetic predisposition and other health problems such as diabetes, fluctuation in the blood pressure and kidney problems. Irrespective of what may have caused the hearing loss, it is of utmost importance to think about what can be done about it. Like Michelle Templet once said, “doing nothing is even worse than doing the wrong thing”.
If Likhit’s boss wasn’t considerate enough to talk to him, Likhit could have lost his job. Some day, Susheel could be driving his car. He could meet with an accident because he did not hear the sound of a vehicle coming from behind. More importantly, with long standing hearing loss, their cognition could deteriorate and possibly cause dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease, and make them dependent on their caregivers (which is exactly what Susheel wanted to avoid!). The best way to avoid that is to get your hearing checked every year after the age of 40 years, and once in 6 months after the age of 60 years whether you think you have a problem or not. Hearing loss is a silent disorder. So, it is important to take action immediately if your audiologist diagnoses you as having a hearing loss - even mild hearing loss! This is because, any hearing loss is a hearing loss and it could compromise your quality of life and overall health.
So remember! Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish!