Hearing loss is often described as an “invisible” health problem. Because hearing loss usually happens gradually, many people don’t realize what they’re missing. And even more importantly, researchers have discovered significant links between hearing loss and other serious health issues, including cognition, dementia, depression, falling, and overall physical and mental health.
Research Shows Hearing Loss Is Connected to Other Health Issues
Here is why treating hearing loss sooner rather than later is not only good for your relationships, but for your brain:
Research shows an untreated mild hearing loss can significantly increase your brain’s cognitive workload. You have to put in so much more effort to perceive and understand what is being said that you divert resources away from storing what you have heard into your memory. This means hearing loss not only affects your ability to “hear” sound accurately, but it also affects higher-level cognitive functioning.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Another study by hearing experts at Johns Hopkins found older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal.
Results of a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with untreated hearing loss.
A Johns Hopkins study showed that people in middle age (40-69) with mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Experts suggest the intensive listening effort demanded by unaddressed hearing loss may take cognitive resources away from what is needed for balance and gait.
Several studies have found a link between depression and hearing loss. A Johns Hopkins study found that older adults with hearing loss were 57 percent more likely to have deep episodes of stress, depression or bad mood than their peers with normal hearing.
Other research points to connections between diabetes, heart disease and hearing loss. At this point, we can’t say that treating hearing loss will prevent dementia or lower the risk of falling, but we are seeing significant connections between hearing loss and other serious health issues. Better hearing helps us be our best, no matter what our age.