Did you know that one in four Americans between ages 65 and 74, and half of those 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss? It is the third most prevalent chronic condition affecting the elderly, after high blood pressure and arthritis. Hearing loss is more than an auditory problem. Research has shown that it affects quality of life, emotional health, and even raises the risk for dementia.
Jennifer A. Deal, PhD, director of graduate studies in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, co-authored a study in which the cognitive function of 253 older men and women was tested over a period of 20 years. The study found a greater decline in memory and other mental abilities in those who had moderate-to-severe hearing impairment.
“We found a difference…equal to approximately a three-year increase in age,” says Deal.
A separate study found that restoring hearing by use of a cochlear implant — a surgically implanted electronic device that does the work for damaged portions of the ear — improved cognitive function in elderly patients. Attentiveness, memory, and mental flexibility scores increased among seriously deaf seniors within a year of cochlear implantation.
The brain center for hearing stores sounds and noises for up to three years following the onset of a hearing loss. But after about seven years the memory becomes weaker and weaker.
Therefore, it is important to have your hearing tested and hearing aids fitted when you find that you are losing some of your hearing. Once you have a hearing aid the hearing processing resumes supplying signals to the brain.
If the fitting of a hearing aid is seriously delayed not even a hearing aid will be able to transform the incoming sound signals into understandable information. This is referred to as hearing atrophy. This means that the brain no longer recognizes ordinary everyday sounds and noises, such as the hum of the refrigerator or the computer.
A Canadian study found that depression and loneliness are more common among seniors experiencing untreated hearing loss. Professor and researcher Charlotte A. Jones found that “You can just imagine not being able to catch the punchline on a joke or not hearing everything said and responding inappropriately […]. People start to shy away from social interactions and social events and eventually become isolated and lonely.” Mishearing and having to ask for repeated comments can become embarrassing and frustrating.
The best solution to avoiding these sorts of hearing related situations is to call your hearing health provider today. Appointments are non invasive and can help you get back in the swing of things with ease.
Not all hearing loss is age related. It can be caused by infections, head trauma, abnormal bone growths, tumors such as an acoustic neuroma, and certain medications. Loud noises, like an explosion or prolonged exposure to music at a high volume, can cause acoustic trauma— or damage to inner ear structures — leading to hearing loss.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 15 percent of American adults under age 70, and 16 percent of teens, have hearing loss that may have been caused by exposure to noise at work or through other activities.
So, how do you know if you should make an appointment with a hearing professional? If you answer yes to three of the following 10 questions, you are advised to make an appointment for testing:
Give us a call to discover if hearing aids may be right for you.