While many of us are aware of the frustration felt by those suffering from hearing loss, few really appreciate the seriousness of the problem. Recent studies have shown a link between hearing deterioration, stress and disease. And with one in 10 Canadians living with some degree of hearing loss, it’s an issue that can’t be ignored.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, for example, recently found that individuals with untreated hearing loss have a higher risk of dementia. For every 10 decibels of hearing loss, that risk increases 20 per cent. Another study published in the International Journal of Audiology noted that employees with hearing loss are five times more likely than their co-workers to experience stress so severe that they require more sick days.
Still another survey, this one of nearly 4,000 adults with hearing loss, showed significantly elevated rates of depression, anxiety and other psychosocial disorders in those whose hearing loss is left untreated.
This is serious stuff. In the case of dementia, though the exact cause remains undetermined, researchers surmise that the extra effort needed to decipher information via the ears draws upon energy that may be needed for things like working memory.
Even mild hearing loss takes energy, be it compensating with the other senses or constantly having to be focused and alert. Add to that the stress and depression that often accompany hearing loss due to feelings of isolation, confusion and anxiety, and it’s no wonder hearing loss can make us so vulnerable.
If you suspect your hearing may be in decline, get tested. And if you already wear hearing aids, get them checked regularly to make sure you’re not elevating your risk of other conditions. In fact, even if no hearing loss is suspected, having your hearing checked regularly will establish a baseline for future reference. Most hearing clinics offer free screenings, so take advantage of them.
Because hearing loss affects so much more than your ears.