It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of adults over the age of 65 have significant hearing loss. Past the age of 70, the likelihood of significant hearing loss reaches 83 percent. Increasingly, researchers are discovering that these hearing loss sufferers aren’t just hearing poorly — they’re also experiencing a wide range of other, related symptoms, including feelings of isolation and depression, physical fatigue, cognitive decline, and reduced mobility. Fortunately, researchers have also discovered a simple solution to all of these problems: hearing aids.
A 2014 study on the cognitive impact of hearing loss reported that losing your hearing can increase your risk of developing dementia by 25 percent. Avoid dementia, and you’re still at increased risk of becoming depressed, feeling isolated and paranoid, and losing your ability to move about freely. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found significant links between hearing loss and depression. According to Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, hearing loss doubles the likelihood of a man developing depression, whereas it triples a woman’s chances of developing similarly dark feelings.
Researchers are just beginning to discover the ways in which hearing loss can physically impact the rest of the body, but what they’ve found is alarming. In a 2014 study, Dr. Frank R. Lin observed a correlation in older adults between hearing loss and reduced physical mobility. Here, too, women are especially susceptible, as the study found that women with hearing loss experience a 31 percent increase in painful accidents such as unexpected falls, as well as a 31 percent increase in the need for nursing care compared to women with normal hearing.
With all of this evidence, why do so many older adults wait an average of 15 years before seeking treatment for their hearing loss? According to a survey conducted by the National Council on the Aging, the majority of adults with untreated hearing loss choose to ignore their hearing damage or deny that it is significant. Twenty percent of untreated hearing loss sufferers cite the stigma of wearing a hearing aid. “A hearing aid would make me look old,” they fear.
That may have been a concern 30 years ago, but even the largest modern hearing devices are almost invisible, and that same survey found that adults who wear hearing aids tend to be more socially and physically active and less depressed. Survey participants also reported that wearing the hearing device had improved their relationships with family members and friends. A later study found that hearing aids cause notable cognitive improvement in wearers.
If you’re living with hearing loss, ask your specialist for more information on hearing aids. Regular examinations will prevent your hearing damage from growing worse, and a properly fitted hearing aid supported by an experienced, caring professional could drastically improve your life. What are you waiting for?