New research indicates a link between premature death and hearing loss. The connection leads to some intriguing hypotheses.
According to the most recent data from the CDC, the average life expectancy in the US is 78.6 years. That’s 76.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women. This may give us an average, but individual life expectancy varies widely. This variance can be linked to things like where you live, access to healthy foods, healthcare accessibility, type of work and even gender.
Now we can add untreated hearing loss to the list of indicators that a person may not live as long as their peers who live otherwise similar lives. Let’s take at what they’ve found an just why this connection may exist.
Norwegian researchers looked at the health data from over 50,000 people over a two-year period. they cross-referenced that data with the causes of death for the studied individuals. They could link increased risk of premature death to hearing loss regardless of the cause of death.
Clarifying the Connection
Any time scientists find a connection, they never assume that one is necessarily causing the other. Instead, they try to determine why the connection exists. What’s the common thread?
This study further showed that men and women who were divorced and women who did not have children were also at increased risk. This seemingly unrelated element suggests that the decrease in life expectancy may be related to social ties.
Previous studies support this assumption. One published in the Journal of Epidemiology analyzed the data for over half a million participants. It found that social isolation increases risk of early death substantially.
How Does Social Stability Contribute to Longevity
Not unlike a pack of wolves or a herd of elephants in the wild, social connections offer several life-extending benefits to humans:
- Safety… When there are more people around, there’s a higher chance you’ll get medical attention immediately if you need it.
- Support… A person with a strong social network is more likely to ask for help if they need it (instead of trying to do something risky on their own).
- Motivation… Having people around can motivate a person to get up in the morning, try new things and look forward to their day.
- Mental Stimulation… You’re engaging with people in conversation, jokes, sharing and more.
- Physical stimulation… You’re more likely to get up and do things if you have people around.
- Improved diet and health… Socially-connected people often have better access to healthy food and can get to doctor’s appointments.
What is it about untreated hearing loss that takes all of this away?
How Hearing Loss Contributes to Social Isolation & Decreased Longevity
You probably have family who will always be there for you. It’s hard to imagine how hearing loss might change that.
Have you ever been in a room full of strangers enjoying the company of each other, but ignoring you? You probably felt very alone. This is what untreated hearing loss can start to feel like. It’s not that people are ignoring you. It’s the fact that as the hearing loss progresses it gets more difficult to share a casual conversation with you.
On your side of things, you often feel out of the loop because you miss parts of the conversation. This can very easily cause you to withdraw emotionally and physically even at family gatherings. Going out to a restaurant with friends and participating in a social club, event or hobby loses its enjoyment. You may find you simply avoid these kinds of interactions. In addition, many individuals experiencing worsening hearing loss have:
- Mental exhaustion
These make social interactions even more challenging.
The Norwegian researchers offer a silver lining in their research, however. After reviewing their research, they came to an important conclusion. Investing in hearing aids can eliminate the connection between premature death and hearing loss.
Wearing hearing aids helps you stay active, social and healthier for a longer time.
This fact can be supported by similar studies. One such study was performed by the American Academy of Audiology. They found that when those with hearing loss wear hearing aids consistently, they have:
- Better relationships with family
- Greater independence
- Enhanced social life outside the home
Premature Death Linked to Hearing Loss
The connection between hearing loss and premature death is a complex one. But when we combine the wealth of data, a whole picture emerges. It shows how hearing loss impacts health, finances, relationships and more. So it’s easy to see why the early demise connection exists.
It’s also clear that getting your hearing loss treated can reverse the effects of hearing loss on each aspect of life. You can continue to live an active, social and healthy life well into those advanced years.