Hearing Well, The Gateway To Better Health
We have long known the link between untreated hearing loss and other medical conditions. In particular, the link between untreated hearing loss and dementia has become very worrying for professionals in the last six to ten years. While we attended the Phonak Global Media Day they outlined the impact of untreated hearing loss on well being and gave us some pretty interesting stats on the medical costs that can be associated with the problem. The simple fact is, if you have hearing loss, you need to damn treat it. It is in your best interests to put your big boy, or big girl, pants on and get on with it.
Did you know that over ten years, patients with untreated hearing loss in the US have more than $22,000 incremental health expenditures, and that untreated hearing loss is associated with a 20 to 50% higher risk of fracture, falls, heart attacks and stroke?
Those are pretty frightening stats and insurance companies in the US are beginning to take notice. If treating hearing loss reduced those stats, it would mean a reduction of billions in healthcare costs.
Hearing Loss and Co-Morbidities
As I said, we have known about hearing loss co-morbidities for a while. The Better Hearing Institute has an excellent infographic which you can see below. The one thing we are all concerned about is the link to Dementia.
Hearing Loss & Hearing Aid Adoption
The estimate is that 15% of adults have hearing loss, the problem is, that very few are actually doing anything about it. In the mild hearing loss category, only 10% of people are doing anything about it. While a mild hearing loss may not have a huge effect, we are all worried about the effect on cognitive function and socialisation. Basically, even with a mild hearing loss, you are spending more of your cognitive function on just hearing. That is tiring and can lead to you avoiding some social situations. Both of these things are not good for your general well being.
Astonishingly, only 50% and 70% of people with moderate and profound hearing loss respectively actually do something about it. I really don't understand that a moderate hearing loss has a great effect on the ability to communicate and socialise. A profound hearing loss means that those things are all but impossible. Why the hell would you not actively seek treatment?
Hearing and Well Being
Phonak have identified the three ways that hearing well can interact with general well being. They are cognitive well being, social and emotional well being and physical well being.
Hearing and Social-Emotional Well-Being
Social engagement is important to our emotional well being and it has become an area of increased interest in health care. Relationships, social support, social influence, and social integration all have an effect on our emotional well being and also our general well being. Phonak believe that this relationship may also drive the association between hearing loss and cognitive change.
Hearing loss has been associated with social-emotional consequences including social isolation, less involvement in social activities, increased loneliness and higher unemployment for some time. The treatment of hearing loss shows a positive effect on all of these factors including more social involvement and improved relationships. It is as simple as more social engagement meaning a better outlook and a higher feeling of general well-being. Again, get off your arse and sort yourself out.
Hearing and Cognition
At this stage, the effect of untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline has been well established. We also understand that the brain and cognitive function play an important part in the processing of speech. In recent times, it has been shown that even mild hearing loss doubles the risk for dementia compared to people with normal hearing. Using hearing aids has been shown to have positive effects on the brain, it helps to reduce listening effort, speed up learning, and even reduce the rate of cognitive decline. The message is simple, treating hearing loss should be seen as a strong part of healthy ageing. You want to be healthy, we all do, that means that you can't ignore hearing loss.
Hearing and Physical Well-Being
Your hearing is an important part of your environmental awareness, it's what stops you from getting hit by that truck. Or at least contributes to it. However, it may also help you from falling over on a regular basis. Untreated hearing loss is associated with a higher incidence of falls and bone fractures. When you are older, a broken hip can change you from a fit, active and healthy individual really quickly. We know that using hearing aids improves stability and allows for more social engagement. All of which adds up to more physical activity which means a fitter healthier you.
Hearing well really does mean living well, and I know that as I get older, I am concerned about my health and its impact. Hell, I am thinking of going on a diet and stopping drinking. Well, the second part of that's a lie, anyway, back to healthy ageing. We are lasting longer as a species, we are living the longest of any who have gone before us. We should be considering how we plan to spend those years, for me, spending them at least moderately healthy matters. It probably should matter for you as well. Treating hearing loss will contribute towards that healthy ageing.
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