Poor hearing health as we age can be influenced by many things. Noise, genetics, aging and perhaps even what we eat. However, one thing that stands out is actually gender. Men have much greater odds of suffering hearing loss than women. One study showed that men were actually 5.5 more likely to suffer hearing loss (1).
This study was in Men’s Health Week last week so we thought we would talk about men’s general health issues and how they are connected to your hearing health. We also have a few tips for you so you can protect your hearing.
Hearing & Your General Health
Untreated hearing loss has a greater impact on your general than you might believe. In fact, studies emerging have linked untreated hearing loss to more general health problems than even medical professionals realized. Age-related hearing loss affects more than 60 percent of the adult population in the U.S. older than 70 years of age. That hearing loss has been associated with increased risk of hospitalization (2.), an increased risk of cognitive decline (3.) and a decreased quality of life (4.).
An Insidious Problem
The onset of hearing loss is a slow and gradual affair. It is truly insidious, slowly occurring, but having an impact on every part of your life. Hearing loss commonly causes people to isolate themselves socially; when you can’t hear what others are saying, you may choose to avoid social situations rather than be repeatedly embarrassed. This problem is exceptionally prevalent when it comes to situations where background noise is present.
Social isolation does lead to depression, and depression does affect your general health. So it’s important to deal with hearing loss, but also relatively easy.
Cardiovascular Disease and Hearing Health
Recently we have seen cardiovascular health and hearing health being linked. It makes perfect sense to us when we consider the cochlea (inner ear) needs to be bathed in a richly oxygenated blood supply. Anything that interferes with that will cause damage to the fine structures of the cochlea. Cardiovascular disease is all about blood circulation throughout the body. Cardiovascular disease causes hardening of the arteries, which affects your circulation, and therefore your hearing.
Smoking, cancer, Blood Pressure & Hearing Loss
We all know that smoking is bad for us; the links between smoking and cancer, cardiovascular problems and other diseases are well known. But did you know that smoking can damage your hearing? The American Medical Association published a study which showed that smokers are 1.69 times more likely to have a hearing loss than nonsmokers. It also showed that second-hand smoke is also a factor. Nonsmokers who live with a smoker are more likely to have a hearing loss than those who are not exposed to second-hand smoke (5.). We think this is another very good reason to get rid of the cigarettes from your life.
Hearing and Mental Health
We have known for some time that hearing loss has had a dramatic effect on mental health. Many people with an untreated hearing loss just decide to avoid the social situations where they have problems. Some know they have a problem but feel that the stigma associated with hearing aids is embarrassing. This situation occurs even though they know that treatment of their hearing loss will allow them to re-engage socially.
Many studies support the effects of untreated hearing loss on general mental health and well-being. One by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and surprisingly, paranoia. The last shows that the effect can be dramatic. It also shows that people with an untreated hearing loss are less likely to participate in fuller social life compared to those who wear hearing aids.
This study went further and tried to identify the impact of untreated hearing loss on the family members of people who suffered it. Over two thousand close family members or friends of the hearing impaired were asked a parallel set of questions both before treatment and after treatment. It was shown that the benefits of treatment with hearing aids were significant. There were improvements in many areas of life ranging from relationships and social life to sense of independence. In fact, in most areas there was a dramatic increase. Interestingly, in nearly every measure the increase in benefit was always higher for the family members than for the hearing impaired (6.).
- Relations at home improved by 56 percent according to the user, 66 percent according to family and friends.
- Self-image improved by 50 percent according to the user, 60 percent according to family and friends.
- Life overall improved by 48 percent according to the user, 62 percent according to family and friends.
- Mental health improved by 36 percent according to the user, 39 percent according to family and friends.
- Social life improved by 34 percent according to the user, 41 percent according to family and friends.
- Relations at work improved by 26 percent according to the user, 43 percent according to family and friends.
Protect Your Hearing
You can take steps to protect your hearing, especially from noise damage. The aging process takes an toll on your hearing, but it is often exacerbated by noise damage. Don’t needlessly damage your hearing by exposing yourself to noise. This type of damage is preventable by using good ear protection that is suitable for the activity you are undertaking.
Treat Hearing Loss
Most importantly, treat your hearing loss. If you think you may be suffering from a hearing loss, have it tested. If you find out that you have a treatable hearing loss, have it treated. The earlier you treat your loss, the better it will be for you, your family and your friends. If you have any questions or you would like a hearing test in Cleveland, call us at 440-248-4790 or book an appointment online now.