By Anita Giles, MS, CCC-A Audiologist
Physicians Hearing Center
Life is enriched by interaction with and reaction to many sounds, sights, tastes, smells, and touch. Of these inputs, hearing impacts our relationships and interactions more than any other. Helen Keller stated, “Hearing is the soul of knowledge and information of a high order. To be cut off from hearing is to be isolated indeed.” David Owen in his book, Volume Control (2019), states that “most of us underestimate the importance of hearing to our well-being”. There is a connection between hearing and activities like walking. If you can’t hear your footsteps, you are less aware of your feet and more likely to stumble. Activities like playing tennis, golf, or hockey depend heavily on auditory feedback. Studies have shown that having trouble hitting solid shots in golf, tennis or hockey can be tied to the inability to hear what you are doing. Arnold Palmer wore hearing aids and told Golf Digest “Without my hearing aids, I lose all feel for what I want to do.” Mr. Owen’s book enhances our understanding of hearing.
Studies have linked hearing loss (HL) to other disabling chronic conditions. Harvey Abrams, PhD (2017) reviewed the research literature and defined these “comorbidities” as linkages of the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic conditions or diseases in patients. “Chronic” means that the condition lasts more than three months, is persistent and has long-lasting effects. These diseases are invisible, progressive, painless, often incurable but TREATABLE. They require professional care and self- managed behavioral changes for successful remediation. When properly managed, patients can regain activities that were previously restricting their physical behavior and quality of life.
Dr. Abrams focuses on seven comorbidities associated with hearing loss: social isolation/loneliness, depression, falls, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive impairment/dementia, and mortality. These studies suggest that HL occurs more often in conjunction with these comorbidities. When the brain must work harder to hear, we become more tired and tempted to withdraw, which in turn can lead to isolation, depression, and feeling excluded from the world around us. HL also creates more difficulty understanding speech causing embarrassing or mentally taxing situations and resulting in withdrawal from social activities that are part of healthy everyday life activities.
The good news is that intervention with hearing devices can have a positive effect on some of these conditions. The use of hearing aids (HAs) can reduce the risk of falls by giving your brain the sound cues to maintain spatial orientation by honing in on orienting auditory landmarks. Depression and loneliness have been shown to be significantly lower for those wearing HAs. Caregiver burden is reduced, and mental health/social functioning scores are increased. An improvement in cognitive status is noted after as little as three months of HA use.
It is important to act quickly if you begin to experience hearing loss. The more proactive you are at addressing hearing loss, the sooner you will be able to enjoy life again. Help is available.
Are you living a healthy hearing life?
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References: More at NALENT.com
Webinar: Hearing loss and associated comorbidities: What do we know? The Hearing Review. (2017, May 31). Owen, David. Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World. Center Point Large Print, 2019