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Can Hearing Loss Cause Other Health Problems?

Can Hearing Loss Cause Other Health Problems?

Hearing loss alone can be a massive inconvenience for sufferers. Still, the fact that hearing loss can actually lead to more serious health problems is relatively unknown.

Hearing loss is a common condition, especially amongst older people, mainly due to the fact that permanent hair cell damage (a key cause of hearing loss) occurs over time. For example, as many as 30% of adults aged 65 or over and 55% of those aged 80 or over show some degree of hearing loss. 

Despite the frequency of this affliction, its risks are not to be understated. Left untreated, hearing loss can lead to other health issues such as walking problems, falls, and even dementia

We will explore the health risks posed by hearing loss in this article.

What are the Different Types of Hearing Loss?

As hearing loss can occur when any part of the ear isn’t working in the usual way, it comes in a few different forms and levels of severity. 

Hearing loss could be caused by an obstruction in the ear that makes it impossible for sound waves to transfer from the outer ear to the brain. This obstruction is often treatable with medicine or surgery, so make sure to see your doctor if you are experiencing hearing loss. 

Other types of hearing loss are more complicated and can affect the way the inner ear or the auditory nerve works. This type of hearing loss is much harder to treat, and unfortunately, much more common. 

It’s possible to measure hearing loss in different degrees; mild, moderate, severe and profound. Those with mild hearing loss may miss certain things in conversations, especially in noisy environments, but those with severe or profound hearing loss will only be able to hear loud sounds of certain frequencies. 

It’s easy for those with mild hearing loss to ignore it and carry on without visiting their doctor or getting a hearing test. No matter how small, it’s best to catch hearing loss as soon as it starts to occur, as untreated hearing loss can lead to other issues. 

What Happens if Hearing Loss is not Treated?

The adverse effects of hearing loss can work together to exacerbate health problems.

Although researchers are still investigating the precise nature of how the brain’s structure changes with hearing loss, brain scans have shown that hearing loss can lead to faster atrophy of the brain.

Furthermore, those with hearing loss tend to experience a greater level of social isolation. Not taking part in social events, or not feeling as if you are able to, can even lead to depression. These things considered, it’s unsurprising that hearing loss can have a severe impact on the mental (and physical) health of sufferers, particularly those in old age. 

Unfortunately, the damage doesn’t end here. These factors also work together to contribute to a higher risk of developing dementia and can worsen the disease in existing sufferers, leading to faster cognitive decline. 

Can Hearing Loss Cause Memory Problems?

If left untreated, yes, hearing loss can lead to memory problems. 

Why? Hearing loss can make it much more difficult for you to participate socially, whether this is engaging in fast-moving conversations or chatting on the phone. This can lead people to withdraw from their social lives and places a strain on relationships with family and friends. 

If this results in a more isolated and quiet life where your brain is not being constantly challenged like it used to be, your mind will go from working very hard to not having to work very much at all. This can be detrimental to your memory health. 

It’s always important to keep your brain active, especially in old age, but hearing loss can act as an obstacle to engaging in the mental challenges of daily life, with repercussions down the line. Researchers have even found that people with central hearing loss (a rare type of hearing loss that affects the auditory nerve) are twice as likely to have mild cognitive impairment as people who have no hearing loss. 

Although there may also be a correlation between the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline, hearing loss can undoubtedly contribute to the deterioration of memory health and other mental capacities.

Does Hearing Loss Increase the Risk of Dementia?

Symptoms of both hearing loss and dementia already align, meaning hearing loss can be easily misdiagnosed as dementia (or at least, can make dementia symptoms seem worse). Confusion in conversations, changes of communication behaviour, and reports of stress and fatigue can be indicative of both conditions, as can a general difficulty in completing daily tasks. 

Recent research on the relationship between hearing loss and dementia has revealed a possible causal link. Further research is needed to identify the exact link between the two conditions, but as hearing loss was the highest of the nine potential risk factors for developing dementia (9%), the association is clear.

A study conducted by Professor Helene Amieva in France following people over 65 with and without hearing problems for up to 25 years found that those with hearing problems were more likely to develop dementia. Furthermore, Frank Lin, M.D., PhD, and his colleagues found that even mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk, moderate loss tripled risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.

How to Decrease Your Risk of Dementia with Healthy Hearing

If you’re finding it hard to follow conversations in restaurants, struggle to hear on the phone, feel that people are always mumbling, or are always asking people to repeat themselves, now is an excellent time to organize a hearing test. This will help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your hearing problems.

If you have started to notice a decline in your hearing, it pays to be proactive. If your hearing loss has a treatable underlying cause, you’ll be able to get a diagnosis and faster treatment.

If there’s no treatable underlying cause, you need to know. Astoundingly, hearing aid users wait on average ten years before they start using a hearing aid. This is a long time in which other health problems can develop.

If you’re diagnosed with moderate to profound hearing loss, you’ll be able to chat to your doctor about getting fitted with a hearing aid. If you’re only experiencing hard times hearing in certain environments, you could benefit from the use of a Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP), such as the Olive Smart Ear, to amplify environmental sounds and improve your auditory experience.

It’s important to get the appropriate help for your diagnosis. Get a hearing test, and your doctor can point you in the right direction.

Can Hearing Loss Cause Other Health Problems?

Untreated hearing loss presents further health risks, for example, it can impact your ability to balance. This is because your ears detect subtle but important cues that help with your balance, and hearing loss mutes these signals. As your brain works overtime trying its hardest just to process sound, it is forced to multitask at a level it shouldn’t have to, straining its capacity to engage in the mental process required to walk safely.

Hearing loss is also associated with tinnitus, which is when you hear a continuous or intermittent ringing in your ears - read our detailed tinnitus guide to find out more.

Coping with Hearing Loss

If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you might feel embarrassed to wear a hearing aid and see it as a burden of old age that you want to postpone. 

This shouldn’t be the case. Hearing loss is a common occurrence that can affect both the young and the old – you don’t need to feel self-conscious. Chances are you have family and friends who are also hard of hearing, and you haven’t even noticed! 

Long gone are the days of the obtrusive ‘ear trumpet’, the first hearing aid dating back to the 17th century. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, (devices implanted into the inner ear to stimulate the auditory nerve), and PSAPs have only become smaller and more discreet as technology has developed. 

You can now purchase hearing aids and earbuds that are barely noticeable, meaning aesthetics no longer needs to play a major role in your decision to use a hearing device.

Olive Smart Ear

If you think you’re experiencing some of the symptoms of hearing loss, don’t wait to contact your doctor or audiologist. They’ll be able to give you a hearing test and talk you through your diagnosis and treatment options.

However, if you don't have a hearing loss diagnoses, and want to benefit from enhanced sounds, the Olive Smart Ear may be able to help. It is an award-winning personalized Bluetooth hearing bud, and falls under the PSAP and hearing amplifier category. 

The Olive Smart Ear is designed to amplify environmental sounds and improve your auditory experiences through customizable and smart responsive tech, along with superior sound capabilities. 

Read more about our patented sound technology, or visit our online store today!

The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources:

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