Just like reading glasses and graying hair, hearing loss is just one of those things that many people accept as a part of the aging process. But a new study shows a connection between hearing loss and overall health in older adults.
Senior citizens with hearing or vision loss are also prone to having trouble carrying out the activities of daily living, depression, cognitive decline, communication problems. Overall, hearing loss is linked to shorter life expectancy and a reduced quality of life.
While this might sound like bad news, there is a silver lining: hearing loss for older adults can be treated through a variety of means. Even more important, getting tested can help uncover serious health concerns and spark you to take better care of yourself & improve your life expectancy.
Why Is Hearing Loss Connected with Poor Health?
It should be noted that hearing loss does necessarily cause poor health in older adults – but it appears to be linked. Researchers at Johns Hopkins want people to understand that these findings show that hearing loss is not only unavoidable. The Johns Hopkins study also showed that older adults with hearing loss tended to have other issues, like high rates of smoking, increased heart disease, and stroke.
These findings make sense when you know more about the causes of hearing loss. Many cases of hearing loss and tinnitus are tied to heart disease since high blood pressure affects the blood vessels in the ear canal. When the blood vessels are shrunken – which can be caused by smoking – the blood in the body has to work harder to keep the ears (and everything else) working which leads to high blood pressure. Older adults with heart problems and hearing loss often experience a whooshing sound in their ears, which can be caused by high blood pressure.
Hearing loss has also been linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of cognitive decline. Hearing specialists and other health professionals believe there are several reasons why the two are connected: for one, the brain has to work harder to distinguish words in a conversation, which leaves less mental capacity to actually process the words or do anything else. In other cases, many people with hearing loss tend to be less social, usually due to the difficulty they have in communicating with people. This social isolation leads to depression and anxiety, which can have a severe impact on a person’s mental health.
How Older Adults Can Treat Hearing Loss
There are several options available to treat hearing loss in older adults, but as the studies show, it is best to tackle these issues early before they impact your overall health.
Hearing aids are one form of treatment that can work wonders in combating your hearing loss. There are several different types of hearing aids available, including small, discreet models that connect with Bluetooth technology. In addition, hearing aid technology has been improving basic quality-of-life issues. For example, they block out background noise much better than older versions and can be connected to cell phones, TVs, and computers to allow for better hearing during the entertainment.
Older adults can also visit a nutritionist or consult with their primary care physician about changes to their diet to help prevent further hearing loss. There are links between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, which can often be treated by adding more iron into your diet. Changes to your diet could also positively impact other health conditions, leading to an overall more healthy lifestyle.