Your Audiologist in Calgary Explains Risks Associated with Untreated Hearing Loss
Many people believe that hearing loss is simply a natural part of aging – and assume that nothing need be done about it.
If, like 80% of Canadians with untreated hearing loss, you’re embarrassed by hearing loss and avoiding a visit to an audiologist, you may be cutting yourself off from many aspects of your life that contribute to your health and well-being.
Even more dangerous, you may be missing early signs that your body is sending you of other problems that can and should be treated. Your Soundwave Hearing audiologist in Calgary is trained to look at your hearing in the context of your health and wellness overall and should be a part of your team of health professionals.
Hearing Aids Reduce Risk of Falls
Did you know that hearing loss is associated with a greater risk of falls and injury from falls? We know that the vestibular function in the inner ear plays an important part in our sense of spatial orientation, movement and balance. Recent research of people aged 40 to 69 has shown that those with hearing loss greater than 25 decibels also experienced at least one fall in the preceding year. Even more alarming was that even a relatively mild hearing loss tripled the risk of a fall. The data showed that every 10 decibels of hearing loss increased the risk of a fall by 140%.
Why is hearing so important to your balance? Most obviously, conditions affecting both vestibular function and hearing may cause loss of balance. Another reason for the higher incidence of falls is that if you have difficulty hearing, you are missing important environmental cues to the presence and movement of people or pets around you and may be thrown off balance by them. Additionally, researchers are seeing that when the brain is working harder to make sense of imperfectly heard speech and sound, it has less energy to spare for balance and movement – when you’re distracted, you’re more likely to fall.
The best part of the ongoing research into hearing loss and fall risk is that researchers have definitively shown that patients did significantly better in gait and balance tests when they had their hearing aids turned on than when they had them turned off. Hearing sounds is an essential part of your body’s balance.
The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Cognitive Function
Several well-reviewed recent studies have linked hearing loss with a decline in cognitive abilities such as memory, concentration and planning skills. Further, the more severe the hearing loss, the more severe were the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. While there is a possibility that both hearing loss and declining abilities are both caused by some underlying conditions, researchers think it more likely that:
1. The increased stress and effort required to understand communication over many years makes the processing of what is learned through communication less effective.
2. Untreated hearing loss tends to isolate people from social interactions, leading to depression, which can worsen symptoms of dementia.
3. Loss of social interaction also leads to a loss of stimulation for certain areas of the brain and shrinkage of some of the structures in the brain cells that respond to that stimulation. The atrophy of these areas of the brain speeds cognitive decline.
The Good News about Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Hearing Loss
Some studies have also shown that aggressive treatment in the early stages of hearing loss, such as the use of a cochlear implant or hearing aid, has a significant impact in preserving cognitive abilities. For instance, a study in France of nearly 100 people, aged 65-85 with severe deafness in one ear, found that more than 80% of those with the most severe symptoms showed improved cognitive scores a year after they had received a cochlear implant.
More long-term studies are needed to positively establish that the use of hearing aids prevents or slows cognitive decline and some clinical trials are already underway. While we await the results of these studies, it is clear from what we know so far that hearing loss, like loss of vision or loss of other senses, does have an impact on cognitive functioning and on quality of life. It just makes sense to get past your embarrassment and ensure that your life is as full and active as it can be, stimulating both body and brain for optimal health.
Hearing Loss May Be a Symptom of Other Problems
Patients suffering diabetes, stroke and heart problems are more likely to have measurable hearing loss. While research has not yet shown a causal relationship between hearing loss and these conditions, it is evident that being aware of even mild losses in your hearing may alert you to your risk of other problems that should be evaluated by your primary care provider. This is another reason to visit your audiologist for a hearing test, sooner rather than later.
Make an Appointment at Your Audiology Clinic in Calgary
Current research is confirming what we have known for centuries: the body is a complex piece of engineering with systems that interlink in profound and surprising ways. Your hearing is an essential part of the health and wellness of your body and mind and untreated hearing loss carries significant risks to both. The most exciting revelation from these studies is not that untreated hearing loss carries risks to your body and to your brain – but that early diagnosis of hearing loss and treatment with hearing aids or cochlear implants can have such measurable positive impacts in protecting your physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.
Hearing Tests in Calgary, Grande Prairie and High River
Make an appointment for a hearing checkup with your audiologist as you would with your
dentist, your optometrist or your family doctor. Soundwave Hearing Care operates an audiology clinic in Calgary, as well as other locations throughout Alberta. Our multiple locations make it easy for patients to receive hearing tests in Calgary, Grande Prairie, and High River.
Preserving and protecting your hearing might just save your life — contact Soundwave Hearing Care to schedule an appointment. If you are a previous patient, please let us know if you have experienced any changes in your health or medication usage since your last appointment.