Ignoring hearing loss is dangerous for your health

Hearing loss is becoming epidemic in Canada but the associated side effects of hearing loss can be equally devastating if left untreated.

The statistics are scary: 19.2% of Canadians aged 20 to 79 have hearing loss in at least one ear; 35.4% have high-frequency hearing loss[1]. And the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services has warned that 4 out of 1,000 children will be born with or develop early hearing loss[2].

Sadly, many of these people may even be unaware of their hearing loss or they simply try to ignore the problem. But if you do not get treatment for your hearing loss it may cost you more than you think. The research is absolutely clear: if hearing loss is left untreated it can have severe physical, mental, and emotional impacts.

These include:

1. Dementia and mental decline

Research has clearly demonstrated that people with untreated hearing loss are at much greater risk of developing dementia. Test subjects who had mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia as normal hearing people but people with severe hearing loss are five times more prone to developing dementia compared to normal hearing people[3].

Your mental health is further at risk because new research indicates that the brains of older people with hearing loss suffer from a much faster rate of shrinkage than normal. A certain amount of brain tissue shrinkage is normal as we age but researchers at John Hopkins University found that this reduction in size is considerably faster (as much as an extra cm3 per year) and more extensive in people with hearing loss than for people with normal hearing.[4]

Leading researcher Frank Lin believes that it is really important for people to get their hearing loss treated early — “If you want to address hearing loss well, you want to do it sooner rather than later…, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place.”

Don’t try and ignore the problem of hearing loss. Hearing aids clearly help improve cognitive function and brain health according to researchers at the University of Texas[5].

2. Overall health

Your hearing disability may be slowing you down more than you think.  A 2006 study found that hearing impaired workers were four to five times more likely to take sick leave[6]. Studies also show that hearing loss can leave you feeling more exhausted and significantly increase the time you need for recovery from work place stress[7].

An increasing number of scientific studies have highlighted a strong connection between hearing loss and cardio-vascular disease[8]. In simple terms, if you have hearing loss it could be a sign that your overall health is at risk.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants help restore hearing levels and stimulate normal sound processing and nerve stimulation in the brain. Think just how exhausting it is trying to understand someone and how discouraging it is when you no longer enjoy social activities when you can’t really hear other people. And when you realise that sound is energy it makes sense that your body will be healthier and you’ll be happier with a hearing aid.

3. Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss as non-diabetics[9]. Nerve damage as a result of out of control blood sugar levels appear to be the likely cause for diabetes related hearing loss.

Although a hearing aid won’t control your blood sugar levels it will reduce your levels of frustration, social distress, and the exhaustion associated with loss of hearing.

4. Falls

Statistics show that if you have untreated mild hearing loss you are three times more likely to suffer a dangerous fall and every 10 decibels of hearing loss makes a fall 1.4 times more likely[10]. It’s hardly surprising, really, when you think about the role the ear plays in balance control.

Hearing loss is also linked to increased numbers of hospitalisations and length of recovery time in elderly people. Hearing aids can help restore your balance and increase awareness levels of your surroundings and this will reduce your chances of a fall.

5. Income

If you suffer from untreated hearing loss your income may take a significant hit. Studies indicate that those with untreated hearing loss may earn up to $30,000 less than those with normal hearing..

Research also shows that there is a clear link between severe hearing loss and unemployment. The unemployment rate of 15.6% for those with severe hearing loss stands out as being twice as high as the unemployment rate for normal-hearing people.

But the good news is that the impacts of hearing loss on income and employment are almost completely cancelled out with the use of hearing aids.[11]

5. Social cost

The impact of untreated hearing loss in children can also be severe. Hearing loss interferes with the normal development of the social and language skills that allow children to form a healthy relationship with the world around them.

Hearing loss can also have a devastating impact on your relationships with your friends and family and there are strong links between hearing loss and poor mental health. These negative impacts include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes such as frustration, grief, and bitterness

The facts are clear: hearing loss, if left untreated, can cause havoc in your life but there are solutions. Modern science has made startling advances in hearing aid and cochlear implant technology, and the latest lightweight, near invisible technology can make your life a whole lot easier.

Looking after your hearing is about looking after your health. Take a step towards better health and better hearing today with a modern no-fuss hearing aid designed for living your life to the full.

The House of Hearing – let us show you how we can make better hearing a reality.

[1] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2015007/article/14206-eng.htm

[2] Cited in http://www.chs.ca/facts-and-figures

[3] http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_and_dementia_linked_in_study

[4]http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_accelerated_brain_tissue_loss_

[5] http://www.hearingreview.com/2016/02/study-shows-hearing-aids-improve-brain-function/

[6]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6790130_Kramer_S_E_Kapteyn_T_S_Houtgast_T_Occupational_performance_Comparing_normally-hearing_and_hearing-impaired_employees_using_the_Amsterdam_Checklist_for_Hearing_and_Work

[7] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14992020902962421

[8] Friedland, D. R., Cederberg, C. and Tarima, S. (2009), Audiometric pattern as a predictor of cardiovascular status: Development of a model for assessment of risk. The Laryngoscope, 119: 473–486. doi:10.1002/lary.20130

[9] http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/seniors/diabetes-and-hearing-loss.html

[10] http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_three_fold_risk_of_falling

[11] http://www.betterhearing.org/sites/default/files/hearingpedia-resources/MarkeTrak%20VIII%20The%20Efficacy%20of%20Hearing%20Aids%20in%20Achieving%20Compensation%20Equity%20in%20the%20Workplace.pdf