by Lisa Packer for Healthy Hearing
September 21, 2015 - You already know hearing aids lead to better hearing, and potentially a better quality of life. But did you know hearing aids might also help extend your life?
Your hearing affects many aspects of your life that can directly affect your health, safety and longevity. As a matter of fact, a study by the National Institutes of Health found that hearing loss has been linked to a higher risk of dying for older men, especially from cardiovascular disease. Overall, men and women who wore hearing aids were found to have a much lower mortality risk than those who had hearing loss but did not use hearing aids. The risk to health is so significant that experts recommend yearly hearing screenings after the age of 50. That being said, here are five ways how the use of hearing aids can contribute to a longer, healthier life.
Hearing is subtly woven into the fabric of our daily lives in ways that we usually don’t consider. For example, how often do you think about balance? If you are like most people, the answer is not very often. Yet statistics show that falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries among the elderly. Even when the falls aren’t fatal, 20 to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as cuts, broken bones and head injuries. These injuries increase the risk of hospitalization and early death. So how does hearing loss factor in? Studies have shown that those with even a relatively minor hearing loss of just 25 decibels have three times the risk of falling than that of a person without hearing loss. One reason may be that when you are walking the ears are responsible for picking up subtle cues that help with balance and navigating your environment safely; hearing loss interferes with those cues.
Another theory is that when your brain is working harder to process sound, it results in a sort of "cognitive overload" that may interfere with some of the mental processes needed to walk safely. Dr.Frank Lin from the Johns Hopkins School of medicine led a study that looked at the increased risk of falls for those with untreated hearing loss. He theorizes, “Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding. If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait."
And what about the ability to be aware of your environment when it comes to safety? As we go about our day, there are many auditory cues that help keep us safe. From ambulance sirens when we are driving telling us that we need to pull over, tornado sirens telling us we need to take shelter and fire alarms telling us we need to get out, our world is geared toward those with clear hearing. Unfortunately most warnings that keep us safe are high frequency sounds likely to go unheard by a person with hearing loss. Not being able to hear these important sounds can put you at risk, so having hearing aids can help you to hear these sounds and keep you out of danger. Better hearing also helps you to have quicker response time and understanding of a situation, allowing you to make a quick decision in an emergency and react accordingly. Uncertainly, anxiety and confusion, common in a crisis, can lead to a delayed response time. Being prepared by having and wearing hearing aids during waking hours and keeping them on your bedside table at night can keep you safe in an emergency and help you get out alive.
Another way hearing aids can help you live longer is by reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Research has shown that people who treat their hearing loss are at less risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s than people who don’t treat their hearing loss. And since studies have also shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have about one-half the life expectancy after diagnosis than people who do not have Alzheimer’s, it stands to reason that getting treatment for hearing loss can increase longevity.
When you have hearing loss, becoming socially isolated is a real danger. Whether out of depression, embarrassment or frustration, many with hearing loss cut themselves off from activities, people and places that they love. But being around people and being able to hear and participate in conversation is vital to maintaining good mental health. Having hearing aids helps users in life helps prevent depression and can actually stave off the loss of cognition that often accompanies untreated hearing loss. Hearing aids help you communicate with your friends and loved ones, allow you to remain a part of the conversation, and re-engage in life.
Untreated hearing loss often leads to depression and anxiety, as well as other serious mental health issues. The results of a recent study, published in JAMA psychiatry, show that people with these mental health issues tend to have shorter life spans than their peers that do not have depression or anxiety. Researchers say that those who receive treatment for their hearing loss in the form of hearing aids are 50 percent less likely to have depression and more likely to report a higher level of life satisfaction.
If you think you might have hearing loss, make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional. Because getting your hearing checked might not just give you a better life; it could give you a longer life as well.
View this content on HealthyHearing.com.
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