Once upon a time, before people knew any better, it was thought that hearing loss was simply part of growing older – something not worth doing much about. That turns out to be wrong. Although hearing loss is common as we get older, it shouldn’t be considered a normal part of aging.
Hearing loss is a much bigger deal than we ever imagined, and we need to take it seriously. As one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States today (the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease), hearing loss affects Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and every other age group. When left unaddressed, hearing loss affects just about every aspect of a person’s life.
There is now a large body of evidence indicating that hearing loss contributes to accelerated cognitive decline associated with age. The good news, however, is that studies show people with hearing aids don’t have this accelerated decline, as the use of hearing aids attenuates cognitive decline in elderly people with hearing loss. This is the conclusion reached by a team of researchers at Unit 897 Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) in Bordeaux.
Over 25 years of research, groups of subjects were studied using a test method called “Mini-Mental State Examination” (a common test used to assess a person’s cognitive and mental state). The results between these groups showed that those with hearing loss who don’t use hearing aids had a significantly higher cognitive decline than those without a hearing disorder. By contrast, those with hearing loss who do use a hearing aid were no different from those with no hearing problems at all. This study confirms that cognitive decline increases in elderly people with hearing loss. However, these findings also suggest that rehabilitation of hearing loss with hearing aids helps prevent a higher level of cognitive decline in those with hearing loss, as compared to those who have no hearing difficulties.
These results support the importance of hearing tests in an effort to prevent or early-diagnose hearing loss, and rehabilitation of hearing disorders for those who already suffer from loss of hearing. Once you reach middle age, it makes sense to include hearing tests as part of your routine annual care. It seems that our hearing may be connected to more than we originally thought, so the next time you think you might be having trouble hearing something, listen to your ears – they may be telling you something!
Information provided by Tustin Hearing Center