The new year is almost here and for many this is a time for reflection. What do you think you could improve in your life in the upcoming year? For many it could be an investment in strengthening the relationships which help us feel connected and give us purpose. For others, we could improve our cognitive health while others typically want to improve physical health and activity level. As the new year draws close, we want to remind you that our total health is connected. In fact, treating something like hearing loss may improve all three of these factors at once. The connection may seem far-fetched at first, but once you understand how healthy hearing affects our total health, the connection will make total sense!
Understanding Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is the third most common health condition in the US, affecting people of all ages. However, as we age, the risk of hearing loss increases significantly. Hearing loss can be caused by a wide range of causes, including changes to our ears as we age, exposure to loud noise, infection, certain chemicals, and medications as well as ongoing health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In 90 percent of cases, it is an irreversible condition which causes damage to tiny hair-like cells which transmit sound from the ears to the brain. When the connection is diminished it can impact all aspects of our life.
Hearing Loss and its impact on social connection and personal relationships
Hearing loss is a communication issue. When sound is diminished it can be hard to hear parts of words and sentences. This makes it incredibly difficult to follow conversations in large or intimate settings. Hearing loss affects people with many social contacts the most. For those who were very social before hearing loss suffer chronic depression as social situations which used to give them a sense of purpose become exhausting and incredibly frustrating to navigate.
Hearing loss can affect people across relationships at home and work. In the workplace, communication issues can impact work performance, making it more likely you’ll be passed up for promotions and raises. At home the effects can be equally devastating, even for you and your significant other. Your partner is often your rock through life, however, as communication issues build up over years, the integrity of your relationship can become strained. Intimacy is often built through comfort and this includes not only communicating big ideas—it’s the everyday banter, inside jokes and unconscious comments that help to build closeness among loved ones. When hearing loss takes over this essential form of bonding is diminished- making loved ones feel distant from one another.
Impact on Cognitive Health
When we struggle to hear, certain sounds are interrupted from reaching our brain. This can cause what is known as auditory deprivation and can lead to brain atrophy. Our brain is constantly struggling with hearing loss to fill in blanks in conversation and putting a higher cognitive strain on our brain. As untreated hearing loss causes us to put ourselves in new situations less often, our brain is challenged less. The more we flex our cognitive functions the stronger they become. This can increase the risk of cognitive decline and even the risk of dementia. For those of us 60 years and older, the risk of dementia is already heightened. Untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia exponentially depending on the degree. A study from Johns Hopkins University found that those with a moderate hearing loss had double the risk, while those with a severe hearing loss had three times the risk of dementia.
Impact on Physical Health
Aside from communication, hearings help us stay connected to the world. This means we can hear sounds around us and be ready for whatever comes our way. When hearing loss goes untreated, it can increase our risk of accidents and falls which can lead to hospitalization and impede mobility. Addressing hearing loss can improve your relationships, increase your cognitive health, and improve your confidence as well as mobility. If you think hearing loss is an issue which may be affecting you, contact us today and start this new year right!