The country is beginning to cautiously reopen as many individuals are becoming vaccinated for COVID-19. This means more opportunity to socialize with family and friends and more opportunities for conversation at church, a family gathering, ball games, and more. If there is anything we learned from social distancing and mask-wearing, hearing well is vital to the conversation.

“Many times, an individual with a hearing loss will read lips,” explains Richard Leroux, B.S., BC-HIS. “Not being able to see someone’s face to read lips or facial expressions can be particularly frustrating for someone with even a mild hearing loss.”

According to Richard, we all hear with our brains, not our ears. That’s because our ears are collecting the sound and sending it to our brains to process. “The direct relationship between your hearing and brain function is disrupted when you suffer from hearing loss,” says Richard. “Individuals who struggle to hear tend to withdraw from social activities or situations, making them feel isolated, which studies have shown increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

Hearing loss is one of the most common health issues in the world and is typically gradual, yet we don’t take time for regular hearing screenings. “Baseline and regular hearing screenings with a licensed and certified hearing professional can help catch a hearing loss early,” says Richard. “Early detection and treatment of hearing loss is important because your brain forgets how to process tones, so the longer an individual goes without amplification, the harder it is to reteach the brain to understand what it is hearing.”

Hearing loss is not age or gender specific, so it’s important to note some of the signs of hearing loss: You turn up the TV or have family members complain that the volume is too loud; you find yourself having to ask people to repeat themselves; sometimes you may have trouble hearing on the phone; sometimes voices sound muffled; you have difficulty hearing voices of females or children; you sometimes withdraw from social situations to avoid conversation embarrassment; or someone close to you may have mentioned that you should have your hearing checked.

By the time most people notice on their own that their hearing has changed, the extent of that loss can be quite advanced. “Scheduling a regular hearing screening means together we can be proactive about any changes to your hearing,” says Richard. Communication is important to all of us. It’s necessary in all areas of our lives, from socializing, to our work environments, to every day interactions. The best way to ensure you’re part of the conversation is to schedule an annual or regular hearing screening. Richard Leroux is a Nationally Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist with Experience Hearing Center in Nevada.