Do you strain to hear what’s going on around you? Do you feel tired all the time? If you answered yes to both, there is a good chance that it’s more than a coincidence. The effects of the audio environment on our brains is astounding. Here is what we know:
- Hearing loss can lead to brain atrophy and expedite dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, a new study led by a Johns Hopkins researcher suggests that hearing loss may also be a risk factor for another huge public health problem: falls.
- Hearing loss also has a noted link to brain shrinkage. Although the brain naturally becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss, according to the results of a study by Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. through Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging. The report revealed that those with impaired hearing lost more than an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year compared to those with normal hearing. Those with impaired hearing also had signi cantly more shrinkage in particular regions, including the superior, middle and inferior temporal gyri, brain structures also responsible for processing sound and speech.
- Recent research has shown that people seeking help for hearing difficulties are twice as likely to suffer from severe fatigue and vigor problems than the general population. Interestingly, the research team also found that this increased risk appears unrelated to the degree of hearing loss. If you struggle to hear, your body will compensate by using as much brain power as possible to understand what’s going on and as a result, you’ll feel zapped for energy.
Unfortunately, There’s More…
Depression, stress and anxiety are common side effects of untreated hearing loss and this makes fatigue even worse. Left untreated long enough, people start to retract from the situations that might seem difficult and the problem compounds. Evidence amassed from longitudinal and cross-sectional studies demonstrates that hearing loss touches every part of your life:
- Many individuals with hearing loss avoid the cascade of frustration associated with conversational speech in challenging auditory environments such as family gatherings and public meeting places by social withdrawal and isolation correlating strongly with depression.
- Older adults with hearing loss may have a lower threshold for decline in cognitive function and development of dementia.
- Hearing loss increases the risk of falls, walking difficulty, poor mobility, and incident disability.
- Hearing loss is associated with increased all-cause mortality via three mediating variables: disability in walking, cognitive impairment, and self-rated health.
Luckily, There are Solutions.
If you have untreated hearing loss and find yourself fatigued, come in for a free assessment. You may not be ready for a hearing aid, but you will never know unless you see a specialist. With the ability to hear, all of the recommendations doctors have for improving happiness and energy still apply. Connecting with close friends, regular physical activity and walking outdoors will all become easier when you can hear the world around you.
A new long-term study shows wearing hearing aids reduce cognitive decline associated with hearing loss may do more than just drive older adults with hearing loss to finally seek professional care. Improved communication made possible by hearing aids resulted in improved mood, social interactions and cognitively stimulating abilities and is the most likely underlying reason for decreased cognitive decline.
Get a Hearing Test
Your hearing is measured in a scale of decibels (dB) compared to ‘normal’ hearing. This scale is used to evaluate whether you have hearing loss, and if so, to what degree.
- Normal hearing (<25dB HL)
- Mild (26-40dB HL) – You have trouble hearing or understanding soft speech and whispers, or speech over background noise
- Moderate (41-55 dB HL) – You have trouble hearing or understanding regular speech up close or regular speech in a quiet office environment
- Moderately severe (56-70 dB HL) – You have trouble hearing or understanding everyday conversations or a telephone ringing
- Severe (71-90 dB HL) – You can only hear loud sounds such as very loud speech, sirens or a door slamming
- Profound (90+ dB HL) – You have trouble hearing sounds such as a motorbike or power tools
An audiogram is a visual representation of your hearing. During the hearing test, your hearing healthcare professional will plot the results into the audiogram.
This is a typical audiogram of someone with age related hearing loss:
When people have hearing loss, everyday occurrences such as driving and doctor visits can lead to more serious consequences because these activities require hearing for important information and noises. Without hearing, people miss information which can lead to a potential emergency scenario. Then, the emergency scenario is even more dangerous because hearing is important during emergencies too! Hearing loss is a compounding problem.