Hearing loss is the most common health problem affecting those returning from active military duty, while tinnitus (ringing in the ears) ranks second. Luckily, returning veterans are likely to discover these problems through testing, but many civilians who suffer hearing loss are liable to go years without realizing they have a problem that is worth treating. This is because hearing loss can seem like “no big deal” until it is dramatically present in our lives.
Hearing Loss and Health
For most of the 20th century, while medicine made significant advances in many areas and eradicated devastating afflictions like polio and tuberculosis, hearing loss took a back seat. We thought of hearing loss as an unfortunate but minor annoyance for those who were aging.
Today, we are living longer than we used to. It is more and more common for Americans to live into their 90s, and what we see is that hearing loss can actually harm our overall health and prevent us from living out our lives at our best.
Hearing loss has been linked to loneliness, depression and social isolation. This may be because it isolates us from conversation, which keeps us connected to friends and loved ones. But even more than that, hearing loss is tied to earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia, increased risk of injury due to falling down, and can even be an early sign of an underlying cardiovascular issue.
Hearing loss is not an isolated condition, but one aspect of our overall health and well-being. Our hearing can be permanently affected by loud sound or bodily inflammation that goes on for too long. It can be brought about by rock concerts, bad diets, or smoking. However hearing loss comes to us, the most important thing is to recognize it, remove its causes, and treat it.
A recent study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that those who closely followed an anti-inflammatory diet, such as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED), were far less likely to experience age-related hearing loss than others in the same age group who consumed a typical American diet.
The likely problem is that the typical American diet creates an imbalance of vitamins and nutrients that causes inflammation, which in turn constricts blood flow, which promotes hearing loss. The implication is that changing our diet, even after some hearing loss has occurred, can prevent further hearing loss. An added advantage to adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is that it also promotes better overall health.
Treating Hearing Loss Improves Our Lives
For those who have hearing loss today, the story is not all doom and gloom. Hearing aids today are better than ever, and can address most of the problems created by hearing loss. Hearing aids not only amplify the sound around us, but do so to the exact requirements of our hearing loss. This means they provide a more accurate representation of sound to our brains, while also preventing further damage to our ears by not amplifying sound more than we need.
Today’s hearing aids can also integrate with Bluetooth and other technologies to help us communicate better with the people we care about. Telephones, smartphones, and computers have never been a better way to stay in touch.
Hearing aids also provide better hearing augmentation than ever in the real world. Using multiple microphones and speakers, accelerometers, and powerful DSP (digital signal processing), current hearing aids can provide us with sound that is not only accurate in the way that a good stereo might be, but that helps us orient ourselves in the space around us. They can help us tell where a sound is coming from, and even help reduce background noise so we can hear speech better. In some situations, our ability to hear speech with today’s hearing aids can be better than an unaided pair of normal-hearing ears!
After one year of wearing hearing aids, over 90% of people say their lives have improved as a result. That’s a pretty glowing recommendation! If hearing loss has started to impact your life, it’s best to start treating it with hearing aids sooner than later.
Don’t wait for changes in your lifestyle to make the change. Make an appointment with us for a hearing test, and if a hearing loss is detected, we’ll help you find the best hearing aids to address your hearing needs! Your loved ones and your body will thank you. Contact us today!