In the past, it may have been common to think that hearing loss was simply an annoying part of aging. Nowadays, with more and more research emerging on hearing loss, scientists are finding links between hearing loss and many other negative health outcomes. Many of these are treatable with hearing aids, though some may come along with the kind of generally suboptimal health that can advance hearing loss.
A study by Harvard found that a faster decline in hearing ability could be an early warning sign of heart disease. It seems that our ability to hear is in some ways the “canary in the coal mine” of inflammation’s toll on the body. Indeed, anti-inflammatory diets such as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) have been linked to a very significant reduction in the risk for hearing loss, while at the same time having positive effects on just about every other system in the body.
Getting regular hearing tests is the best way to keep tabs on your hearing ability. It’s the only way to know for sure whether your hearing loss is within the range of “normal” or if you may have accelerated hearing loss which could indicate underlying complications. The non-profit Better Hearing Institute recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and every three years after that. Even if you don’t have problematic hearing loss — or don’t notice any hearing loss at all — a hearing test is an important aspect of monitoring your health as you age.
If you do have noticeable hearing loss, it’s best to start treating your hearing loss with hearing aids right away, rather than waiting until you can barely hear. Here are a few benefits of treating your hearing loss now:
No Lost Time
Age-related hearing loss tends to happen so slowly that we don’t notice it. We adjust day by day as our hearing gets worse and worse, and we may not realize just how much we’re missing. Unfortunately, our brain does notice. The auditory cortex begins to atrophy as our ears stop sending it information. In the long term, this can lead to earlier onset of dementia and cognitive decline. In the shorter term, we can actually forget how to hear speech.
Sometimes people who have gone a long time without treating their hearing loss will say that hearing aids “don’t work” when they finally get them. They are actually experiencing this brain atrophy first hand. If they’ve let their hearing loss go untreated for a long time, when they finally put hearing aids in they will still be unable to interpret speech because their brain has let go of the ability. Training sessions are available at some hearing healthcare centers which can help over time to retrain the brain to hear speech again, but why go through all this? Start treating hearing loss when it arises.
Many people who start to experience age-related hearing loss at first assume that the associated fatigue is a separate age-related condition. They say, “I can’t hear as well as I used to, and I’m tired all the time,” when what they should say is, “I can’t hear as well as I used to and it makes me tired all the time.”
Straining to hear makes the frontal cortex work harder, trying to keep up with a conversation while also trying to figure out what the conversation is. And keep in mind, this is happening while the auditory cortex, which normally takes care of interpreting speech, is withering away from disuse. Hearing aids allow us to keep using our brains to maximal effect and to stay sharp throughout the course of a social event.
Greater Sense of Well-Being
One of the most well-documented consequences of untreated hearing loss is the increased risk of loneliness and social isolation. Because hearing loss comes on slowly, you might not notice how deeply it affects your day to day life and changes your routines. Research into loneliness in the last few years has positioned its negative effects on physical health as equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. People with untreated hearing loss are also much more likely to feel depressed and anxious.
People who get hearing aids, after one year of wearing them, report being satisfied with them 91% of the time. Not only that, but hearing aid wearers, compared to those with untreated hearing loss, report a greater sense of optimism about not only themselves, but the world at large.
The evidence is overwhelming that hearing aids help crucially to maintain a sense of well-being as we age, so don’t delay on getting your hearing tested. Contact us today to schedule a hearing test and to learn more about the benefits of treating hearing loss!