Statistics show that approximately 48 million Americans face some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss has a vast range of consequences, the most obvious being the reduced ability to hear. Sadly, it usually takes someone 5-7 years before seeking treatment for their hearing loss, and to go untreated for that long not only impacts years of clear communication, but it also robs you of mental, social, and physical well-being.
The Link Between Hearing Loss and Overall Health
A study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, found that untreated hearing loss can lead to a broad spectrum of other medical conditions. For two years, researchers gathered data from over 200,000 people facing hearing loss, aged 50 and above. The results revealed that the majority of those with hearing loss were more prone to other health problems.
Recorded health problems included depression, dementia, higher risk of injury such as sprains and fractures, and even heart attack and strokes. The longer people lived with untreated hearing loss, the higher the risk they had for these health problems.
Hearing Loss and Social Well-Being
As hearing loss progresses gradually over time, people who suffer from it eventually withdraw from normal social situations. They may avoid social outings with co-workers or friends, cutting family dinners short or skip out on family reunions because they simply can’t hear what’s been said, or participate in conversations. All of this can lead to social isolation and loneliness.
Hearing loss also impacts our mental health. As people with hearing loss retreat from social interactions, their mood and cognitive skills are also impacted. A National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) study conducted in 2017 found that over 11% of people with hearing loss also suffered from depression. NIDCD researcher Dr. Chuan-Minh Li states that there is a “significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression.” Other studies have also shown links between hearing loss and dementia.
The Physical Consequences of Hearing Loss
Just as our social well-being is negatively affected by hearing loss, our physical health can be as well. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), those facing untreated hearing loss are more prone to accidents. This link is easy to understand, according to Harvard Medical School professor Neil Bhattacharyatt. For example, you lose the crucial warning systems that tell you if there is a vehicle driving up behind you while you’re biking. “As a special sense,” says Bhattacharyatt, “hearing has a tremendous protective role.”
Growing bodies of research suggests that hearing loss is also linked to heart disease. Research conducted at Harvard University revealed that “hearing loss occurred 54% more often in people with heart disease then in the general population.” Hearing loss is not only detrimental to our ability to hear, but also our social and physical well-being.
Maintaining Your Quality of Life
Hearing loss doesn’t need to lead to other health complications. Believe it or not, hearing loss is quite preventable and treatable, which is good news for those who may feel their hearing abilities declining. The following tips can help you manage your hearing loss and maintain your quality of life.
- Recognizing and admitting that we have a problem is the first step.
- Move beyond the stigma that using hearing aids will make you seem old. More importantly, don’t think that wearing a hearing device makes you less capable.
- Don’t isolate yourself. If you lack a close knit family, or don’t have friends to lean on, reach out to support groups who also suffer from hearing loss.
- If you are employed, let your employer know so they can accommodate your hearing needs.
- Research tips on maintaining hearing health such as the use of ear protection.
- Avoid injuries by being careful and alert in busy streets.
- Don’t lose your social circle or hobbies because of hearing loss.
- Most importantly, seek out a hearing health specialist as soon as possible to establish your next steps, and remember that is recommended to get your hearing tested at least annually.
Treat Your Hearing at Audibel
Do you or a loved one find yourself struggling to hear in normal everyday conversations? Treating your hearing loss with hearing aids greatly improves your social and physical well-being. Contact us at Audibel to schedule a hearing test today!