Cutting through the Noise

We respect hearing. We celebrate sound. We love it when people with a hearing change can re-embrace life more fully than they ever expected.

But in order to promote themselves and their hearing aid sales, many providers have resorted to overstating tenuous connections between hearing loss and some health conditions that in our opinon may be partly true but are used to fear monger people into getting their hearing fixed. To get a fuller sense of why it’s so important to treat hearing loss sooner rather than later, they quote research on hearing loss and the connection to some health issues.

At Ossicle, we think that the following correlations are interesting but not conclusive. You won’t die because of a hearing loss. You won’t develop Alzheimer’s because of a hearing loss. We believe that many hearing care providers are exaggerating a thin correlative relationship between disparate conditions and using them causally to promote their products and services.

That isn’t us. Read this blog post Markus Hilbert, Au.D. posted and see for yourself why it just makes sense to respect healthy hearing.

Here’s what the claims are, take it with a grain of salt! We think that with all the stretched connections between hearing loss and the issues listed below, a negative connotation is constructed. Hearing change is normal. It reflects that people live active lives full of sound. We celebrate sound, recognize auditory deprivation meaning that a hearing change can result in weakened audtory nerves and auditory function over time and all of that can be avoided by wearing corrective hearing aids early on so life can continue fully engaged with the sounds you’ve always loved: the voices of loved ones, music, nature, and so much more. But to fear monger to generate hearing aid sales is just not in our nature.

Cognition: According to Brandeis University Professor of Neuroscience, Dr. Arthur Wingfield, who has been studying cognitive aging and the relationship between memory and hearing acuity, unaddressed hearing loss not only affects the listener’s ability to “hear” the sound accurately, but it also affects higher-level cognitive functioning. Specifically, it interferes with the listener’s ability to accurately process the auditory information and make sense of it. For instance, in one study, Wingfield and his co-investigators found that older adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss performed poorer on cognitive tests than those of the same age who had good hearing. According to Wingfield, “The sharpness of an individual’s hearing has cascading consequences for various aspects of cognitive function. Even if you have just a mild hearing loss that is not being treated, cognitive load increases significantly. You have to put in so much effort just to perceive and understand what is being said that you divert resources away from storing what you have heard into your memory.”

Risk of dementia: A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Another study, by hearing experts at Johns Hopkins, found that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal.

Brain shrinkage: Results of a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss. Another study, conducted by Brandeis University Professor of Neuroscience, Dr. Arthur Wingfield, along with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis, has used MRI to look at the effect that hearing loss has on both brain activity and structure. Their study found that people with poorer hearing had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, a region of the brain that is necessary to support speech comprehension. Wingfield has suggested the possibility that the participants’ hearing loss had a causal role. He and his co-investigators hypothesize that when the sensory stimulation is reduced due to hearing loss, corresponding areas of the brain reorganize their activity as a result.

Risk of falling: A Johns Hopkins study showed that people in middle age (40-69) with even just mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. The intensive listening effort demanded by unaddressed hearing loss may take cognitive resources away from what is needed for balance and gait, experts have suggested.

Increased hospitalizations: A Johns Hopkins study found that older adults with hearing loss were 32 percent more likely to have been admitted to a hospital than their peers with normal hearing. The study also found that older adults with hearing loss were 36 percent more likely to have prolonged stretches of illness or injury (lasting more than 10 days).

Mortality: One National Institutes of Health-supported study of older people even found that hearing loss is tied to greater risk of dying for older men from any cause and particularly from cardiovascular causes. The same study found that men and women who used hearing aids, although they were older and had more severe hearing loss, had significantly lower mortality risk compared with hearing impaired men and women who did not use hearing aids.

Depression: Several studies have found a link between depression and hearing loss. A Johns Hopkins study found that older adults with hearing loss were 57 percent more likely to have deep episodes of stress, depression or bad mood than their peers with normal hearing. Another study showed that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of depression in adults of all ages, but is most pronounced in 18 to 69 year olds. Another study, conducted in Italy, looked at working adults—35 to 55 years of age—with untreated mild to moderate age-related hearing loss and found that they were more prone to depression, anxiety, and interpersonal sensitivity than those with no hearing problems.

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