As the year ends and we are about to turn the page, you hold the creative power in determining the narrative of your next year. Many of us turn to health-related New Year’s Resolutions as we consider the steps to a more mobile, active and vibrant future.
And while it might not hold the same glamor as a visible six pack or completing a marathon, prioritizing your hearing health in the New Year will impact your wellbeing on any number of levels.
Hearing health doesn’t get the spotlight
A survey from 2021 and conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association confirmed what we’ve long known anecdotally: although people acknowledge that healthy hearing is vital to our quality of life, we don’t practice hearing health care. While a majority of survey respondents indicated that they’ve had a vision test within the past year, only 20 percent had a hearing exam. In fact, people are more likely to have had a colonoscopy than undergo a vision screening.
And, among the estimated 30 million folks who live with hearing loss in the United States, only a small fraction confront their hearing loss. On average, most people wait about a decade before choosing to intervene with hearing aids.
The importance of hearing health
But the reach of unacknowledged hearing loss extends through many facets of our lives. Socially, hearing plays an important role when seeking connection in our highly verbal culture. One of the primary consequences of hearing loss reported by people who have the condition is a sense of isolation. We are all seeking a sense of belonging and connection; hearing loss is a major impediment to lasting relationships and moments of interconnection with others. In that way, it weighs heavily upon mental and emotional wellbeing.
A study from the National Institute on Aging and Johns Hopkins shows the ways that hearing loss impacts physical activity. They measured movement and activity levels in adults in their 60s. Compared to people with healthy hearing, those with hearing loss moved an average of 30 minutes less. There was also a positive correlation between severity of hearing loss and an increase in sedentary time. As the severity of hearing loss increased, movement decreased.
A second team of scientists evaluated other physical health factors in relation to hearing loss. They found that people with hearing loss were more likely to score worse when it came to physical function, balance and walking speed.
Hearing loss can decrease self-confidence and increase dependency on others. As we move less, our muscles weaken and mobility decreases.
The link between hearing loss and dementia risk is substantial. People with even moderate hearing loss are twice as likely to receive a future dementia diagnosis, while those with severe hearing loss are five times as likely.
Much of the hearing process happens in the brain. Scientists are still working to find evidence that provides a conclusive reason as to why this occurs, but we do know that the brain adapts itself throughout our lifespan. When it no longer receives the same input levels of sound information, part of its reorganization may leave us susceptible to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Confronting hearing loss makes a difference
Hearing loss isn’t just something you have to live with as you age. There are proven and effective ways of treating hearing loss. What’s more, you can start protecting your hearing health at any age by developing safe listening habits and keeping tabs on your current levels of hearing by scheduling regular screenings.
Prioritize hearing health this year
And so there is never a better time than right now to prioritize hearing health. The best way to get a head start in this endeavor is to schedule a hearing consultation. It’s an easy step to take! During your appointment, our highly trained team will lead you through a simple hearing exam. Your results will show us whether you’re dealing with hearing loss and if so, if you’re a good candidate for hearing aids or another intervention.
Confronting hearing loss doesn’t have to be filled with anxiety. Instead, consider it the first step on your path to a more connected and vibrant life!