If you suffer from hearing loss, you may miss out on more than the conversations around you. The ability to hear your loved ones, friends, favorite music or enjoy your favorite television shows is certainly important, but it turns out there is more at stake than just your hearing capability. New research shows that untreated hearing loss has a profound effect on mental state, affecting everything from temperament, perceived life satisfaction and cognitive ability.
Those with hearing loss are likely to experience mental and emotional issues; anger, depression, anxiety, loneliness, frustration, and decreased cognitive functioning are common among those with untreated hearing loss. It often takes seven to ten years before people suffering from hearing loss seek treatment, creating a recipe for an unnecessarily poor quality of life for millions of people.
Hearing loss has, in recent years, been linked with depression. As a matter of fact, a recent study by the National Council on Aging studied more than 2,300 people with hearing loss, and found that those with hearing loss were 50 percent more likely to experience depression. And it’s not just feeling down once in a while; many seniors with untreated hearing loss reported feelings of sadness and or depression that lasted two weeks or more.
Cognitive decline is a significant problem that has been linked to untreated hearing loss in recent studies. Several studies also suggest that hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive issues, including dementia. “The cause behind this link is unclear. But one theory is that hearing loss tends to cause some people to withdraw from conversations and participate less in activities,” says geriatric medicine specialist Ronan Factora, MD. “As a result, you become less social and less engaged.”
Because this lack of stimulation can increase your risk of developing dementia, social engagement is one of the activities promoted to protect brain health.
A recent study out of the University of Colorado suggests that one of these factors is brain reorganization, in which the hearing centers of the brain shrink and other parts of the brain previously devoted to other tasks to step in. The result is that brain functions such as short-term memory or problem-solving skills deteriorate.
Among seniors, loneliness and social isolation are common problems that are unfortunately only increased by the onset of hearing loss. Many seniors become frustrated with their efforts to hear and understand, especially in noisy environments. As a result, they avoid activities, people and places they once enjoyed. Many studies have found that people with untreated hearing loss are significantly less likely to participate in social activities than those who use hearing aids.
Lifestyle habits that promote brain health
Keep your mind active. It is important to keep learning throughout your life — no matter how far you got in school. Studies do show a lower risk of dementia if your level of education is high school or better. Studies also show that if you can maintain an 8th-grade level of reading or literacy throughout your life, it will help keep your mind active. People are encouraged to engage in hobbies that help keep them learning or challenged. Seniors may enjoy playing board games, ballroom dancing, playing a musical instrument or learning a foreign language. Any new activity that forces an individual to learn and increase skill over time develops new neural connections in the brain.
Stay Social – Social connections help keep your brain healthy as you age. It important to maintain good relationships with friends and family, and to visit and socialize with your loved ones.
Exercise — In particular, cardiovascular exercise protects the brain. Many doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (even walking at a brisk pace) at least five days each week.
Check Your Hearing with us at Audio Advantage Hearing Aid Center
The results of the studies highlight the importance of early hearing loss screening and treatment as a possible way to reduce the risk of the mental health issues and cognitive decline associated with hearing loss. In short, early screening and treatment can help improve quality of life; relationships, communication and social function, and help seniors re-engage in life.
At Audio Advantage Hearing Aid Center, we provide comprehensive hearing tests. If a hearing loss is detected, our team will work with you to find the best solution to meet your needs.