Tag Archives: comorbidities

Exploring the Links Between Your Hearing and Your Health

Did you know? 

We exercise, drink water, and eat healthy to prevent any health issues down the road. Many of us have regular primary care appointments as preventative care. But what about your hearing health? How does hearing loss impact your overall health?

Nearly 27 million Americans ages 50 and older have hearing loss. Of those, only one in seven treat it. Those that do treat their hearing loss often wait an average of 10 years or more before meeting with a hearing healthcare processional. Unfortunately, this can have a lasting impact on your health.

A study from Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D. Ph.D monitored nearly 700 adults for 12 years and found that people with moderate or severe hearing loss were at an increased risk for developing balance problems resulting in more frequent falls as well as a higher prevalence of memory loss. In addition to these findings, other research has confirmed that individuals with heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes are more likely to also experience hearing loss as compared to their age matched peers.

So, how does this impact your daily life?

If you are reading this post, you are likely very aware that hearing loss can have a significant impact on social interactions. You might find that you are asking others to repeat themselves. You may struggle to follow conversation with more than one person. Or you may find yourself thinking everyone else is mumbling. Whatever it is that you struggle with, the effects on social interactions can lead to self-isolation and ultimately depression and anxiety.

What can you do to prevent these effects?

One of the best ways to prevent these issues is to start with good hearing habits early in life. Just like we brush our teeth every day for good oral hygiene, we should protect our hearing when in loud environments. We should reduce exposure to medications that can cause hearing loss and we should have regular hearing exams with a hearing healthcare provider to monitor hearing over time. If hearing loss is detected, we should treat it quickly.

What if I already know I have hearing loss?

Now is a great time to start treating it! Do not hold back from choosing to do something about it. Schedule an appointment with your hearing healthcare provider and share a comprehensive medical history with them. Work with them to determine the best solution for you. If you do not yet have a provider, please use our Find a clinic tool. Or you can reach out to our team at 888.277.8014 (M-F 8am-8pm ET), and we would be glad to help find the right provider for you.

Any form of hearing loss can be challenging for the person experiencing it and for loved ones trying to communicate with them. It is our hope to help you hear your best because sound matters!

About the author‌

Alicia Wooten, Au.D. CCC-A is a Senior Auditory Technical Specialist at Oticon Medical. She specializes in implantable hearing devices and has a strong passion for aural rehabilitation and its impact on patient outcomes.

Citations

Hopkinsmedicine.org. 2022. The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss. [online] Available at: <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-hidden-risks-of-hearing-loss> [Accessed 29 April 2022].

You Hear with Your Brain

Exploring the Close Relationship Between Hearing Health and Cognitive Health

What is cognition?

Cognition is the “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” (Oxford 2022). It is how we process information, develop into who we are, learn what we learn and process our surrounding environment. Cognitive function is critical to participation in activities, social gatherings and for enjoying conversation with family and friends.

What does hearing have to do with cognition?

In recent years, there has been a steady increase in research outcomes that show a connection between untreated hearing loss and accelerated cognitive decline.  One study completed by Croll et al in 2021, showed that individuals with hearing loss had lower cognitive function results than those of their peers with normal hearing. In several studies using functional imaging, there was evidence that when listening to different inputs the brain was stimulated less in individuals with hearing loss.

There are numerous theories as to how hearing loss plays a role in cognitive changes. Today we will examine two schools of thought.

The Common Cause Theory

The first theory to explore is the concept that age-related changes cause global declines. This widely researched theory suggests that neural degenerative diseases or even cardiovascular disease play a role in overall cognition. How does this theory expand to untreated hearing loss? This theory suggests that, like other health conditions, hearing loss has an impact on our overall health and cognitive abilities as we age.

The Cascade Theory

This is known as the “use it or lose it” theory (Chung, 2018). We know that hearing loss decreases auditory stimulation within the brain, and in turn this deprivation can cause cognitive decline. The idea is that auditory deprivation (i.e., hearing loss) can cause a ‘cascade’ of other issues like social isolation, depression, and the accelerated onset of dementia. Hearing loss also causes a person to have more cognitive load, meaning that individuals with hearing loss must work harder to process information. If we further explore the ‘cascade’ theory, there is hope that by treating your hearing loss sooner than later, you can slow the progression of cognitive decline.

What you can do to retain cognitive function as you age

Additional research is needed to understand more about how hearing loss impacts cognition. However, research suggests there are close ties between our hearing health and our overall health and wellness.

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that your hearing health and cognition stay in shape as you age:

  • Get your hearing tested annually and continue to monitor it regularly. Add your hearing to the list of health-related check-ups you schedule each year.
  • If you have a hearing loss, seek treatment from an audiologist. Early intervention and early use of hearing aids or assistive listening devices are proven to reduce the effects of hearing loss such as depression, isolation, and memory loss.
  • Use the latest technology to your advantage. Although hearing aids cannot reverse the effects of hearing loss and cognitive decline, research does show that patients who use hearing devices regularly to treat their hearing loss have a greater ability to retain their cognitive function throughout the aging process.

Talk to a hearing care professional about the many benefits of treating your hearing loss today. And if traditional hearing aids aren’t the right solution for you, we encourage you to explore a bone anchored hearing system instead.

About the Author

Author Nicole Maxam, AuD, has been an audiologist for almost 17 years and has worked with a variety of patients. Before joining the Auditory Technical Services team, she worked in the school settings and private ENT setting offering hearing aids and implantable options to her patients.

Resources

  • Campbell, Julia and Sharma, Anu. “Compensatory changes in cortical resource allocation in adults with hearing loss”, Front. Syst. Neurosci., 25 October 2013, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2013.00071
  • Crolling, Pauline, “Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in the General Population: a prosceptive cohort study”, J Neurol. 2021 Mar;268(3):860-871. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-10208-8
  • “Cognition”. Lexico. Oxford University Press and Dictionary.com. Retrieved 3/25/2022
  • King, Chung. Theories on Hearing-Cognition Functions, The Hearing Journal Dec. 2018. V71.12 p10-12.
  • Naples, James, Hearing Loss may affect brain health, Harvard Health Blog, 31 Jan 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/hearing-loss-may-affect-brain-health-2020013118739
  • Tran, Yvonne, et al, “Co-occurring Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults: A Dual Group-Based Trajectory Modeling Approach”, Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Dec 24;13:794787. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2021.794787. eCollection 2021