Not so long ago, people thought that having hearing loss had no effect on other parts of the body. We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Hearing loss affects your brain, your mental health and even your susceptibility to accidents. Further proof of this was found in a study by Jennifer A. Deal, PhD, from the Department of Epidemiology and the Cochlear Centre for Hearing and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She and her team discovered that not treating hearing loss puts us at greater risk for a whole host of disorders.
Hearing loss affects more than your ears
For this study, Deal used data from 200,000 people aged 50 and over, who have been suffering from hearing loss but have yet to correct it with hearing aids. She noticed that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to be at risk of health problems like dementia, depression, injury from falls, heart attacks and strokes. Let’s look in more detail at how hearing loss can lead to two of these effects – depression and an increase in accidental falls.
Hearing loss and depression
You might be not surprised by the connection between hearing loss and depression. Not being able to hear other people can lead to a person finding communication difficult, which can result in complete social withdrawal over time. Socially isolated people are at a huge risk for depression. The study above is only the latest in a long line of studies on the depression-hearing loss link.
In a separate study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 11 percent of those with hearing loss also had depression, compared to only 5 percent of the general population. The researchers found “a significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression” said Rd. Chuan-Ming Li, the author of the study.
Depression is a serious issue. An article in the magazine Social Work Today explained some of the negative thoughts people with hearing loss have, like feeling inadequate, helpless and embarrassed. By getting the help you need for your hearing, you might be taking a vital step in preserving your mental health.
Hearing loss and the risk of accidents
The link between hearing loss and the risk of accidents is more difficult to comprehend. How can hearing loss make you more accident-prone? The answer might lie in a separate study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. Researchers used data from a nationwide health survey to discover that those with reported hearing loss had an accident within three months of the date of the survey.
These accidents were categorised as one of the following: driving, work, leisure or sports. The risk of accidents increased with the severity of hearing loss, with those who reported “a lot of trouble” with hearing loss being 90 percent more likely than the average person to have an accident. Although the study depended on self-reported data, the large dataset of 232.2 million adults lends the findings some significant weight.
Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya, a professor of otolaryngology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston led the study. Explaining the results, he says that the answer lies in not being able to hear the warning signs from obstacles and hazards all around you.
“Not hearing warning signs when jogging, cycling — that can put you in harm’s way.” he says.
So, hearing loss isn’t just a nuisance for millions of Americans, it is a potential health hazard. Hearing, like our eyesight, performs a protective role which helps us navigate unfamiliar environments without harm to ourselves.
Untreated hearing loss costs more money
Not getting your hearing treated will cost you more in the end. “Hearing loss itself is not very expensive, the effect of hearing loss on everything else is expensive.” remarked Jennifer Deal.
Are you wondering what you can do to protect your hearing? The first step is admitting you have trouble hearing others and scheduling a simple hearing exam. Though it sounds easy, this first step can be the hardest for many people. The average time a person waits to seek help for their hearing loss is an astonishing seven years. Getting the help you need means you will start reaping the benefits of improved communication right away, so that you can begin to focus on other areas of your life.
Contact Lifestyle Hearing Solutions for a complimentary hearing test
There’s no time like the present to start hearing better. Visit us at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions for a free hearing test which will show you exactly which frequencies you are having difficulty hearing. To schedule your test and consultation, give us a call today!