Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
You’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss and the hearing healthcare professional is recommending hearing aids. Will they really make that much of a difference, you wonder? Yes. As it turns out, not only can hearing aids help you hear better, they may even help you live longer. Here’s how:
1. Hearing aids can improve your balance
Wearing hearing aids helps you hear better, which frees up your brain’s resources to deal with other issues, such as walking and maintaining your balance. More than likely, you’ve been walking since you were an infant. You don’t even think about how to balance anymore, you just do it. But did you realize hearing loss could impact your brain’s ability to concentrate on this important function?
“Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding,” Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins says. “If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait.”
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Research conducted by Lin and his colleague, Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute on Aging, found those with even mild hearing loss were nearly three times as likely to have a history of falling. Lin said possible explanations for this are that 1) those who don’t hear well aren’t as aware of their surroundings and 2) straining to hear overloads the brain’s resources.
2. Hearing aids can speed up your response during an emergency
Wearing hearing aids can help you hear better in emergency situations and give you the information you need to make a quick decision and react accordingly. From emergency vehicle and fire engine sirens to household smoke alarms, there are a variety of sounds in our daily environment designed to alert us. Having the ability to hear these signals can mean the difference between life and death; however, those with hearing loss often have trouble hearing the high frequency.
According to the National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), as many as 24 percent of American adults between the ages of 20 to 69 have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) which affects their ability to hear sounds with high frequencies.
3. Hearing aids can reduce your risk of depression
Wearing hearing aids can lessen your risk for developing feelings of sadness, especially among older adults with severe hearing loss who are at greater risk for developing depression and anxiety than those who hear normally.
A survey conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) of 2,300 adults over the age of 50 with hearing loss found that 30 percent of respondents with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report feelings of depression compared to 22 percent of those who wore hearing aids.
Another study conducted by the NIDCD found that more than 11 percent of those with hearing loss reported incidences of depression compared to five percent of those without hearing loss.
4. Hearing aids reduce social isolation
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. Findings from the same NCOA survey also found that 42 percent of hearing aid users participate regularly in social activities, compared to 32 percent of those with untreated hearing loss.
5. Hearing aids may delay the onset of dementia
Wearing hearing aids may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia diseases. Left untreated, mild to moderate hearing loss likely contributes to cognitive decline and may be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. Treating hearing loss can also help individuals with early stages of dementia communicate more fully with family members and other caregivers.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading killer in America. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that one in 10 people in the U.S. over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s dementia. Deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89 percent since 2000.
Get your hearing tested
If you think you may have hearing loss, make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional at your earliest opportunity. If you’re diagnosed with hearing loss and the prescription is hearing aids, start wearing them sooner rather than later. Not only will you enjoy an enhanced quality of life, you’re also more likely to live longer. Our directory has thousands of consumer-reviewed clinics to help you find an audiologist or hearing specialist near you.