Listen To Your Body: Hearing Loss & Overall Health
The loss of one’s hearing can have a significant impact on our lives. The ability to hear is one of our treasured senses, and it is a vital factor for successful human interaction.
While hearing loss is a medical condition in itself, if left untreated or if it isn’t managed accordingly, it can also impact our overall wellbeing and way of life. After all, without our hearing we are losing something that makes us uniquely human, so every effort should be made to ensure we keep our wellbeing front of mind.
Symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Speech and other sounds are muffled,
- Words become more difficult to understand, especially when there is significant background noise,
- Difficulty in hearing consonants,
- Requiring people to speak slowly, clearly and loudly,
- Having to turn the volume on your electronic devices higher than normal,
- Lacking the confidence to have conversations and attending some social functions.
If you begin to notice the signs of hearing loss noted above, or you notice the signs in a family member, ensure you speak with your primary physician sooner rather than later. Untreated hearing loss may result in the following conditions, as well as be a risk factor for diseases such as dementia, diabetes, heart disease and depression.
What are the effects of untreated hearing loss?
Studies have found a causal link between hearing loss and the following:
- Irritability, negativity and an overall increase in anger,
- An increase in fatigue, tension, stress and a higher likelihood of depression,
- Avoidance/withdrawal from social situations,
- Social rejection and loneliness,
- Reduced alertness, resulting in an increased risk to personal safety,
- Impaired memory, making it more difficult to learn new tasks,
- Reduced job performance and earning power.
- If hearing loss is left untreated at a young age, it can result in difficulties for that child to learn, develop speech and acquire the necessary interpersonal skills required to foster self-esteem and succeed in school and life.
- As we age, hearing loss provides a different set of difficulties. As noted above, those who have difficulty hearing can experience a severely distorted and incomplete form of communication. This can result in isolation, withdrawal and in some cases, depression.
Let’s dive a little bit deeper and explore how hearing loss can be a significant risk factor to other serious illnesses:
Hearing Loss and Dementia
Whilst there are other factors that can contribute to the development of dementia such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol use etc., age-related hearing loss can also be a risk factor.
It is important to note that hearing loss is only a risk factor, and that having any form of hearing loss does not mean a person will develop dementia.
Research from the John Hopkins School of Medicine suggests that:
- People with mild symptoms of hearing loss may be twice as likely to develop dementia as those with healthy hearing.
- People with severe hearing loss may be five times more likely to develop dementia.
- Hearing difficulties can result in the effects noted above, such as social isolation, feelings of loneliness and depression and a loss of independence. Any of these factors can contribute to the development of dementia.
- When one loses their sense of hearing, they may place an additional load on the mental resources of a vulnerable brain, which may leave less resources for memory, understanding speech and other cognitive functions.
- It is suggested that the neurological process that leads to dementia is the same process that leads to age-related hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Diabetes
Diabetes and hearing loss are two of American’s most widespread health concerns.
- Roughly 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes.
- An estimated 34.5 million people have some form of hearing loss.
- A recent study determined that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease.
- Of the 84 million adults in the U.S. who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than in those with normal blood glucose.
Hearing Loss and Heart Disease
Research conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, killing roughly 610,000 people annually in the U.S.
Those with cardiovascular disease can have a variety of medical issues affecting the structure and vessels of the heart. The most common types include those that narrow or block vessels leading to chest pain, or a heart attack or stroke. Others include those that affect your heart’s muscles, valves or rhythm.
Studies have shown that good blood flow circulation plays a vital role in maintaining good hearing health. Therefore, poor blood flow or trauma to the blood vessels of the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss.
A study published in the American Journal of Audiology by Raymond H. Hull and Stacy R. Kerschen reviewed research conducted over the past 60 years on cardiovascular health and its influence on hearing health. They determined that impaired cardiovascular health negatively affects both the peripheral and central auditory system, especially in older adults.
An increase in cardiovascular health can help preserve your hearing.
A study conducted at Miami University discovered that:
- There is a positive relationship between hearing and cardiovascular exercise.
- The study followed 102 non-smoking volunteers from Indiana and Ohio ranging in age from 22-78, whose hearing was evaluated after riding a stationary bicycle.
- Researchers concluded those with higher cardiovascular fitness levels had better hearing, especially among those age 50 and older.
What can I do to maintain or recover my hearing?
Whilst hearing loss can be either a contributing factor or a result of the diseases mentioned above, it is always in our best interest to maintain a healthy level of hearing where possible.
Hearing devices are a very important part of managing hearing loss. These devices include:
- Hearing aids,
- Cochlear implants and
- Assistive listening devices that help with specific problems.
Your audiologist will be able to advise you on the most appropriate device you’ll require based on your specific hearing difficulties.
It can’t be stressed enough that if any of the symptoms of hearing loss are identified, you or a family member should visit your doctor as soon as possible. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the sooner any potential underlying health risks can be identified.
If you’ve been recommended a hearing aid from your doctor or think it might be the best next step to combat the effects of hearing loss, the team at Best Hearing Aid are ready to help. Give us a call on (800) 350-5056 to have a chat and discover which hearing aid is right for you.