Healthy Hearing Can Mean a Longer, Healthier Life

It’s no secret that hearing problems can greatly affect communication and impact relationships, job performance and educational achievement. But, did you know that taking care of your hearing can also improve your overall health and wellbeing?

Here are three ways that getting help for hearing issues can improve your life:

1. Lower Your Stress

Not being able to hear well or communicate easily is very stressful. Most people underestimate how much energy and concentration it can take to communicate when you are living with a hearing loss. And still, there is always the worry that you may have missed some key piece of information, or that people will get irritated or judge you if you ask them to repeat what they’ve said too often. It’s no wonder that many people who develop hearing loss begin to withdraw from social groups and their interpersonal relationships break down over time. The end result of all of this—chronic stress.

And that chronic stress takes its toll, leading to many physical and mental health problems including headaches, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, problems sleeping and depression. In fact, it’s estimated that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress related illnesses and complaints. But, by ensuring that you can continue to communicate well and are able to maintain a strong social network to support you through life’s ups and downs, stress can be greatly reduced and prevent many of these long-term problems.

2. Reduce Your Risk of Falls

There’s a lot of talk about falls prevention in older adults nowadays, and it’s no wonder—falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related admissions among older adults. In Wisconsin, falls prevention is particularly important, as the state’s death rate due to falls among adults 65 years and older is well above the national average and one of the highest in the country. It’s a very serious problem, and a very expensive one too.

So how do falls relate to hearing loss? A study funded by the National Institute on Health found that untreated hearing loss led to a 3 times greater likelihood of falls and the risk continued to increase with every 10dB rise in hearing loss. Even those with mild hearing loss had a 3 times increased risk of multiple falls. The reasons behind this correlation are not yet clear, but what is known is that addressing hearing loss early could help you to stay on your feet and prevent a serious injury, or even worse.

3. Improve Your Memory

A number of research studies have shown a correlation between Alzheimer’s dementia and hearing loss. The reason behind this connection isn’t yet understood, but researchers at John Hopkins University theorize that “a common pathology may underlie both or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia… hearing loss could also lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.”

And, while hearing loss can be a risk factor for cognitive issues, it can also make their symptoms worse. Of further concern is the fact that hearing loss is often mistaken for dementia and as a result, may go untreated. The bottom line is that hearing loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s are often found in combination, and treating the underlying hearing loss can actually improve overall cognitive function and reduce behavioral problems associated with these conditions.

So forget the notion that hearing loss is just about your ears! Healthy hearing is essential to your overall health and quality of life. And, there are many ways to address hearing problems, from communication strategies to state-of-the-art technology.

Source: Hearing & Deafness Newsletter

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