Just like graying hair and reading glasses, hearing loss is simply one of those things that most people accept as a part of growing old. But a study from Duke-NUS Medical School reveals a connection between overall health and hearing loss.
Communication problems, depression, and cognitive decline have a higher occurrence in older people with vision or hearing loss. That’s something you may have already read about. But did you know that hearing loss is also linked to shorter life expectancy?
This research indicates that those with untreated hearing loss might enjoy “fewer years of life”. And, the possibility that they will have a hard time undertaking tasks required for daily life almost doubles if the person has both hearing and vision impairment. It’s an issue that is both a physical and a quality of life concern.
While this may sound like sad news, there is a positive spin: hearing loss, for older adults, can be managed through a variety of means. More significantly, major health concerns can be uncovered if you get a hearing exam which could inspire you to lengthen your life expectancy by taking better care of yourself.
Why is Hearing Loss Connected With Poor Health?
Research definitely reveals a connection but the accurate cause and effect isn’t well understood.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins note that other issues including greater risk of stroke and heart disease were seen in older individuals who had hearing loss.
These findings make sense when you know more about the causes of hearing loss. Many instances of tinnitus and hearing loss are tied to heart disease since high blood pressure affects the blood vessels in the ear canal. When you have shrunken blood vessels – which can be a consequence of smoking – the blood in the body has to push harder to keep the ears (and everything else) working which leads to higher blood pressure. Older adults who have heart conditions and hearing loss commonly experience a whooshing sound in their ears, which is usually caused by high blood pressure.
Hearing loss has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other types of cognitive decline. Hearing specialists and other health professionals think there are numerous reasons why the two are connected: the brain has to work harder to decipher conversations and words for one, which allows less mental capacity to actually process the words or do anything else. In other cases, lots of people with hearing loss tend to be less social, usually as a result of the difficulty they have communicating. This social separation leads to depression and anxiety, which can have a major impact on a person’s mental health.
How Hearing Loss Can be Managed by Older Adults
There are a number of solutions available to manage hearing loss in older adults, but as the studies show, it is best to tackle these concerns early before they affect your general health.
Hearing aids are one form of treatment that can be very effective in fighting your hearing loss. There are small discreet models of hearing aids that are Bluetooth ready and an assortment of other options are also available. What’s more, hearing aid technology has been maximizing basic quality-of-life challenges. For example, they filter out background sound far better than older designs and can be connected to cell phones, TVs, and computers to let you hear better during the entertainment.
Older adults can also go to a nutritionist or contact their primary care physician about changes to their diet to help counter additional hearing loss. There are links between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, for example, which can frequently be treated by increasing the iron content in your diet. Changes to your diet could also positively affect other health issues, leading to an overall more healthy lifestyle.