How Treating Hearing Loss will Improve Your New Year

Make treating your hearing loss your new year's resolution!. Tom Grill/Getty Images

Treating hearing loss will improve your relationships

Untreated hearing loss can create a barrier between you and others. By treating hearing loss, communication is easier, you are less likely to avoid social situations, have misunderstandings, and more likely to enjoy being around others as the strain of listening is alleviated.

Treating hearing loss will improve your outlook on life

A study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) looked at 2300 people age 50 years and older and found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Less likely to participate in organized social activities
  • Felt people got angry at them for no reason

Once hearing loss was treated, significant improvements were seen across all categories by the users and by their families. Many people forget that the hearing loss doesn’t just affect the person with the hearing loss – it impacts everyone they need to communicate with!

Treating hearing loss will result in better career opportunities and increased earning potential

According to the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), 1 in 6 baby boomers and 1 in 14 Generation X have some degree of hearing loss.  These numbers are significant as these populations are more likely to be employed full-time. It is estimated that Americans with untreated hearing loss are losing at least $100 billion dollars per year in earnings. Those with mild hearing loss lose about $1000 per year while those with profound hearing loss are estimated to lose $12,000 per year.

Untreated hearing loss carries a high potential for miscommunication, more fatigue and stress from increased listening demands, and difficulty in group situations.

Treating hearing loss may prevent brain atrophy and cognitive decline

We know that hearing involves the ears and the brain. Hearing loss changes the way the brain receives sounds and, as a result, the brain is not stimulated as much in the auditory processing areas.

This causes the brain to reorganize those connections and can lead to difficulty understanding and processing the sounds you want to hear. Studies from Johns Hopkins found that untreated hearing loss is associated with:

  • Accelerated cognitive decline
  • Seniors with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia than those without hearing loss
  • There is faster brain tissue loss (atrophy) in those with an untreated hearing loss versus those without hearing loss.

Part of this is due to what is called “cognitive load”. Even with a mild hearing loss, you need more effort to hear and understand what is being said. The brain has limited resources; expending that extra effort hearing and understanding takes away from the ability to store what you have heard in memory.

Further studies are underway to determine exactly how treating hearing loss will impact cognitive decline.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society did state that hearing aid use attenuated cognitive decline, but it is important to note this was a study that looked at self-report only.

The next steps

If you or a loved one has hearing loss, make this the year to do something about it. Finding an audiologist near you is easy; click here to access the American Academy of Audiology’s “find an audiologist” feature.

Sources:

Sheets P (2007). Hearing Loss and Earning Potential: Audiologists Understand Importance of Treatment and Design. Feedback. Vol18:No 3. Retrieved 12/28/15 from http://www.audiologist.org/_resources/documents/publications/general_business/Hearing_loss_and_earning_potential.pdf

Consequences of Hearing Loss (2015). Better Hearing Institute. Retrieved 12/28/15 from http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/consequences-hearing-loss

Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Depression, Social Isolation in Seniors (1999). American Academy of Audiology. Retrieved 12/28/2015 from http://www.audiology.org/publications-resources/document-library/untreated-hearing-loss-linked-depression-social-isolation

Amieva H, Ouvrard C, Giulioli C, Meillon C, Rullier L, Dartigues JF. Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-Year Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Oct ;63(10):2099-104. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13649. Retrieved 12/29/15 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26480972

Lin, Frank R. et al. “Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline Among Older Adults.” JAMA internal medicine 173.4 (2013): 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868. PMC. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.

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