Untreated Hearing Loss May Lead to Mobility Issues
Hearing loss is an invisible condition, which means you may not notice it for some time. With hearing loss, you may learn to adapt and adjust to accommodate the changes in your abilities. You may find yourself turning up the volume on your media or asking people to repeat themselves more often. Even if you’ve begun to notice changes, you may not want to address your hearing loss immediately.
Though hearing loss could make you feel alienated, know that you are not alone. Hearing loss appears in 20% of the American population, though people do not seek help right away. In fact, many hearing specialists estimate that most people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing until they decide to seek treatment. Though it is better to treat hearing loss early, it is important to treat it.
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a number of other conditions, from an increased risk for dementia, depression, stress, and anxiety to a breakdown in your interpersonal relationships to lower earning power on the job to interfering with your personal safety and security. New studies have found that untreated hearing loss could also lead to mobility issues, thus decreasing your quality of life.
Studies Show that the Movement of Older People is Negatively Affected by Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a common condition in the US, as well as worldwide. Researchers in Finland (University of Jyvaskyla and University of Tampere) found that “people who experienced hearing problems in different everyday situations moved less within their local area than those who considered their hearing to be good.”
Researchers monitored 848 men and women between the ages of 75 and 90 for two years. They found that people who experienced hearing loss were two times more likely to limit their movement to nearby areas. According to Hannele Polku, one of the researchers, “We observed that older people with hearing problems have more limited life space, and that these problems lower their quality of life.”
Results were published in the Journal of Gerontology and BMC Geriatrics, and were a part of an international project “Hearing, Remembering and Living Well.”
How does Hearing Affect Your Movement?
Your sense of hearing is always on – even while you’re sleeping. Sudden loud noises tend to rouse us, even in deep slumber. Hearing is a sense that evolved from our early ancestors to keep us safe and help us survive. In low-light situations, we tend to rely on our hearing to notify us if someone is following us or if predators are nearby, for example.
Hearing and balance is closely linked in the auditory center of our brains. People who experience hearing loss may find a sense of being off-balance. The sounds in our environment help us to identify our distance between objects (think of ambulance sirens while you’re driving, for example) and help us situate ourselves in space.
If your hearing abilities begin to deteriorate, the sense of connection to the world around us will undoubtedly be affected – and this includes our interpersonal relationships. Researcher Hanneke Polku says, “A person with many everyday social contacts and communication with others may feel that even a minor hearing loss may affect their everyday functioning.”
In everyday situations, we go about our activities and errands with a sense of familiarity. If your hearing abilities have begun to change, you may feel less connected to the world around you, from verbal communication to environmental sounds. This dissonance and disconnect will seep into the ways in which you carry out your daily activities.
You may find yourself avoiding certain locations, shops, restaurants, and events because they are too loud and you cannot hear other speakers. In the long term, untreated hearing loss has been linked to a sense of social isolation, due to withdrawal from scenarios that may pose difficulties with hearing.
How to Ensure Your Best Hearing Health
For people age 50 and older, hearing specialists recommend an annual hearing test. With hearing loss rates rising among younger populations, it wouldn’t hurt for people to begin annual hearing tests sooner!
With an annual hearing test, we’ll be able to keep track of your hearing abilities year by year. If there are incremental changes in your abilities, we’ll recommend immediate treatment (usually in the form of a hearing aid), which will ensure that you do not go too long with compromised hearing. This helps you stay in touch with the sounds of your life and the world around you.
For more information, contact us today at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions.