Identifying and addressing hearing loss early brings many benefits. From enhancing your quality of life, to helping protect against several health consequences linked to unaddressed hearing loss, the case for early treatment is strong.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to never put off a hearing test and treatment, however, is simply this: We “hear” with our brain, not with our ears. When we have a hearing loss, the connections in the brain that respond to sound become reorganized.
Fortunately, for many people, hearing aids can provide the sound stimulation needed for the brain to restore the normal organization of connections to its “sound center” so it can more readily react to the sounds that it had been missing and cognitively process them.
In fact, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. And dramatic new technological advances have completely transformed hearing aids in recent years, making them more effective, comfortable, and easy to use. So the sooner you identify hearing loss and start using professionally fitted hearing aids, if recommended by a hearing healthcare professional, the sooner you’ll begin to reap the rewards of better hearing.
The benefits of early treatment on
quality of life and health
For many years, experts have known the positive impact that addressing hearing loss has on quality of life. Research shows that many people with hearing loss who use hearing aids see an improvement in their ability to hear in many settings; and many see an improvement in their relationships at home and at work, in their social lives, and in their ability to communicate effectively in most situations. Many even say they feel better about themselves and life overall.
More recently, however, researchers are discovering a significant link between hearing loss and other health issues, such as cognition, dementia, depression, falling, hospitalization, mortality, and overall physical and mental health.
To get a fuller sense of why it’s so important to treat hearing loss sooner rather than later, just consider the latest research on hearing loss and these seven health issues:
1. Cognition: Specifically, untreated hearing loss interferes with the listener’s ability to accurately process the auditory information and make sense of it. You have to put in so much effort just to perceive and understand what is being said that you divert resources away from storing what you have heard into your memory.
2. Risk of dementia: A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.
3. Brain shrinkage: Results of a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss.
4. Risk of falling: A Johns Hopkins study showed that people in middle age (40-69) with even just mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. The intensive listening effort demanded by unaddressed hearing loss may take cognitive resources away from what is needed for balance and gait, experts have suggested.
5. Increased hospitalizations: A Johns Hop-
kins study found that older adults with hearing loss were 32% more likely to have been admitted to a hospital than their peers with normal hearing and they were 36% more likely to have prolonged stretches of illness or injury.
6. Depression: Several studies have found a link between depression and hearing loss. A Johns Hopkins study found that older adults with hearing loss were 57% more likely to have deep episodes of stress, depression or bad mood than their peers with normal hearing.
May is Better Hearing Month.
Take action now and get the help you need. If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of hearing loss, DO NOT WAIT.
Contents of this article were reprinted with permission from The Better Hearing Institute which was founded in 1973 to conduct research and engage in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss to benefit from proper treatment.