Hearing Loss May Cost Brain Size
By David Martin, RN, CEO, VeinInnovations
Today, and for the next few months, Live Healthy Atlanta will focus on actions and technology to help us preserve and improve our health.
Hearing loss has been called a growing national epidemic, and with good reason. We Baby Boomers are loath to admit getting older comes with an invisible, but normal, consequence: age-related hearing loss.
“Most people like finding a cool pair of reading glasses when age-related vision loss kicks in at around age 40. But there is such a stigma with regard to hearing loss that most people don’t do anything about it for about 10 years after they first notice a problem,” says Dr. Kadyn Williams, one of the founding audiologists of Audiological Consultants of Atlanta.
Dr. Williams warns that the delay in seeking help may be costing us much more than our pride when we ask for someone to repeat something, or when we feel a bit left out upon missing bit of dinner conversation at a noisy restaurant.
“We unequivocally know that there is a correlation between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging shows a correlation between hearing loss and dementia, depression, declining health, and loss of brain tissue,” she adds.
While this and other studies should be a major wake-up call, are we listening? Apparently not, according to Anne L. Oyler, Doctor of Audiology and Associate Director, Audiology Professional Practices, of the American Speech Hearing-Language Association (ASHA).
“The statistics are alarming. Thirty-six million Americans have a hearing loss – this includes 17% of our adult population, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
“The incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Estimates are that 33% of Americans between ages 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and almost 50% of Americans over age 75 have lost hearing. And while hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults, fewer than one-in-five people who could benefit from treatment actually seek treatment,” Dr. Oyler continues.
Dr. Williams says there is an economic consequence at stake, too.
“The National Council on Aging did a study on hearing loss. They found a direct correlation in the overall effect of untreated hearing loss on health, and on our well being and earning power,” she said.
“It is job security – to be vital and vibrant and active and know when you are responding to what you think you are hearing is essential. It can be very costly not to seek treatment, especially for the business person. Nothing makes you seem more out of it than jumping into a conversation with a comment that is not on cue or on topic. You have to be able to hear and function, so in my opinion, treatment should be considered a business expense,” said Dr. Williams, who contributed to these answers some basic questions regarding hearing:
How does one start treatment?
Dr. Williams stresses the importance of having a baseline hearing test, so if or when a problem is suspected, you and your audiologist will be able to make a valid comparison of your hearing loss.
How does one protect hearing?
One must protect hearing against loud and long, and long, loud noises. Here is a list of situations that can impact your hearing, and devices to help protect your hearing.
What are the signs of hearing loss?
There are many signs that will let you know whether or not you may have hearing loss, including whether or not you need to have information repeated, and if you have the television volume turned up louder than other watchers need it. This five-minute test will give you a preliminary score with regard to the likelihood of your having suffered hearing loss. This test is not meant to replace, however, your seeing a professional audiologist for a hearing test, if you suspect a problem.
There are many options available for people with hearing loss. A professional audiologist can help you assess what you need depending on your specific degree of hearing loss, activities, and budget.
“When we think about our five senses, you can block four of the five. You can close your eyes, or choose not to touch something, or not to taste something. You can wear a mask to avoid smell. But hearing is there to keep you in communication with your world 24/7. Without it you lose a huge portion of your humanity. And you’re not the only person who loses. Your friends and family lose the ability to communicate with you,” Dr. Williams added.
Resources to help you learn more about the importance of protecting your hearing, and seeking treatment if you believe you have hearing loss, include:
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Studies show link between hearing loss, mental decline
Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults—A Growing National Epidemic
Protect your Hearing
Don’t Let Your Hearing Retire Before You Do!
About Hearing Loss
If you take your ears for granted, listen up: