Imagine if there was a health condition that was causing cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, imbalance, and even dementia. You'd want to know about it, wouldn't you?
What if there were ways to completely prevent it? Would you take the necessary precautions to do so?
It's not heart disease, or diabetes, or even obesity.
The #1 most overlooked health condition in the world is hearing loss.
Hearing loss can affect anyone at any age, from newborns to the elderly.
How Common is Hearing Loss?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 5% of the world's population, or 360 million people have disabling hearing loss worldwide. The incidence of hearing loss increases with age. One out of every three people over the age of 65 has some degree of hearing loss and nearly half of those people over the age of 75 have hearing loss.
A person with a hearing loss, or someone who is "hearing impaired", has difficulty hearing certain sounds, like the conversation in a noisy restaurant, or certain environmental sounds such as birds chirping or the telephone ringing. Hearing loss is classified by how severe it is, from a mild loss all the way to complete deafness, in which the person is unable to hear most sounds, even loud sirens.
Impact of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss and deafness not only affect communication, but also affect overall quality of life, and have been linked to depression, anxiety, fatigue, an increased risk of falls, cognitive decline, and dementia.
A longitudinal study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found a strong link between the degree of hearing loss and dementia. Those with just a mild hearing loss are twice more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing, and those with a severe hearing loss are five times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Hearing loss has also been linked to an increased risk of falling. Falling is a serious concern, with the consequences ranging from embarrassment to serious injury and disability. Johns Hopkins Researchers found that even with a mild hearing loss, the risk of falling increases by three-fold.
Unfortunately, hearing loss is an underestimated health concern. Those with hearing loss tend to delay treatment until they are unable to communicate, or until a loved one expresses frustration. Only 20% of those who might benefit from treatment actually seek help. For those who do seek help, they have waited over 10 years before doing so.
Don't be a part of the 80% that don't seek help and suffer for life.
6 Simple Ways to Prevent Hearing Loss
The good news is that half of all cases of hearing loss are preventable. There are some simple primary prevention practices that can prevent hearing loss, including:
- Vaccinations against childhood diseases
- Promotion of healthy pregnancy and safe childbirth practices
- Following healthy ear care practices, such as screening and treatment for ear infections
- Avoidance of the use of ototoxic drugs (drugs which are toxic to the ear)
- Maintaining an overall healthy diet
- Limiting exposure to loud sounds or wearing hearing protection when exposed
Noise-induced hearing loss in particular is a major cause of hearing loss that can and should be prevented.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk for developing noise-induced hearing loss due to the use of personal audio devices at unsafe volumes, as well as attending loud events such as concerts and sporting events.
Once you lose your hearing from noise, it won't come back. Period.
Ways to treat hearing loss
To avoid these negative consequences of hearing loss, early identification and treatment are crucial. If you suspect that you have a hearing loss, the first thing you should do is to get your hearing tested. If a hearing loss is confirmed, fortunately there are several ways to manage the hearing loss, including:
- The use of hearing aids
- The use of cochlear implants
- The use of other assistive listening devices (ALDs) such as amplified telephones and auditory loop systems in some public venues
- Aural rehabilitation services to help reduce the negative effects of the hearing loss
- The use of visual aids such as closed captioning, special TV speakers, or video chat
Hearing loss should not be ignored any longer. Research has proven that hearing loss has significant social, emotional, physical, and psychological impacts. The good news is that hearing loss can either be prevented or managed to eliminate these consequences. Now, it's up to you to take the precautions and seek help. But the question is, will you?
Arlinger, Stig. (2003). Negative Consequences of Uncorrected Hearing loss - A Review. International Journal of Audiology. 42 Suppl 2: 2S17-20. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/10612964_Negative_consequences_of_uncorrected_hearing_loss--a_review
Davis, A., Smith, P., Ferguson, M. Stephens, D., & Gianopoulos, I. (2007). Acceptability, benefit and costs of early screening for hearing disability: A study of potential screening tests and models. Health Technology Assessment, 11, 1-294. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17927921
Lin, F.R., Metter, E.J., O'Brien, R.J., Resnick, S.M., Zonderman, A.B., & Ferrucci, L. (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68, 214-220. http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=802291
Lin, F.R., Ferrucci, L. (2012). Hearing Loss Linked to Three-Fold Risk of Falling. Archives of Internal Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_three_fold_risk_of_falling
World Health Organization. (February 2015). 1.1 billion people at risk of hearing loss. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/ear-care/en/
World Health Organization. (March 2015). Deafness and hearing loss Fact sheet No. 300 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs300/en/