By Elizabeth Brassine, Au.D.
We think of the obvious effect of hearing loss with regard to communication difficulties. However, your hearing health contributes to your overall well-being and quality of life. Statistically, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older Americans after hypertension and arthritis. Aging also brings cognitive processing deficits that interfere with communication and can create distractions that lead to memory loss, falls, and other accidents. Let’s examine these effects.
Memory and Hearing Loss––Adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than adults with normal hearing. Also, adults with hearing loss develop a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities over three years sooner than those with normal hearing. It’s believed that untreated, degraded hearing may force the brain to devote too much of its energy and resources to processing sound.
Dementia and Hearing Loss––Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing or treat their hearing loss. It appears that this effect increases as the amount of hearing loss increases.
Falling and Hearing Loss––People with mild hearing loss are three times more likely to have a history of falling. Each additional increase of hearing loss by 10 decibels increases the chance of falling by 1.4 times the original risk.
Mental Health and Hearing Loss––Hearing loss results in social isolation. Adults with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from engaging with family and friends. They are also likely to report depression, anxiety, anger, and frustration. The degree of depression or other emotional or mental health issues also increases with the severity of the hearing loss.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss––Tinnitus or “ringing in the ear” affects up to 50 million Americans. Ninety percent of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. The most common causes of tinnitus are: noise exposure, aging, head injury, and medication side effects.
Income and Hearing Loss––Statistics show that people with untreated hearing loss lose up to $30,000 annually. Adults with hearing loss, who wear hearing aids, have a lower unemployment rate than those who don’t.
To hear better, is to live better! Start a better health and wellness conversation today! Better hearing health is possible! Call your audiologist today!