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Hearing loss linked to increased risk for other health issues

John Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D, and his colleagues tracked 639 adults for almost 12 years and found some surprising links between hearing loss and how it contributes to increased risk for other health problems.

Hearing loss was linked in this study to not only walking problems and falls (due to balance issues), but also to social isolation and dementia. For example, the research found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk, moderate loss tripled the risk, and people with severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.

“If you think your hearing has diminished, it’s worth making an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing check.”

Lin is now in the planning stages for a new study to determine if hearing aids can reduce these health risks for those experiencing hearing loss.

“These studies have never been done before,” says Lin. “What we do know is that there is no downside to using hearing aids. They help most people who try them. And in those people, they can make all the difference in the world – allowing people to re-engage with friends and family and to be more involved again.”

Research from the Hearing Foundation of Canada reports that out of three million Canadians who have hearing loss, only one in six wear hearing aids. This means that more than 80 percent of hearing-impaired Canadians have trouble following a normal conversation because they do not use hearing aids.

Lin says, “If you think your hearing has diminished, it’s worth making an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing check.”

The following hearing aid myths could be holding you back from living your best possible life:

1)  “My hearing is not that bad.”

On average, hearing aid users wait a decade to get help. Lin says, “Our findings emphasized just how important it is to be proactive in addressing any hearing declines over time.” Over a 10 year period – difficulty in communicating with loved ones increases, as does isolation and other health risks.

2)  “Wearing hearing aids means I’m old, and I’m not ready for that.”

“Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain,” says Lin. Hearing loss also increases social isolation which decreases engagement in conversation. “These factors may contribute to dementia,” reports Lin.

The truth is that having the ability to hear properly via hearing aids helps the individual connect with others, helps the brain stay young and keeps the person actively involved with their own life – ensuring greater independence as one ages.

3)  “I don’t like the way hearing aids look.”

Much like all technology – it gets smaller and more discreet over time. Our cellphones are the equivalent of walking around with the power of (what was once) a large computer in your hand. Similarly, today’s hearing aids are smaller and less conspicuous than ever. Many celebrities use hearing aids, like actress Jodie Foster,57, The Who frontman, Pete Townshend, 75, and scientist Adam Savage, 52, a special effects designer and fabricator of “MythBusters” fame.

4)  “I heard that hearing aids are difficult to use.”

Most doctors and hearing centers include a trial period, so you can ensure the type of hearing aid you’ve chosen is the right fit for you.

5)  “Hearing aids cost too much.”

Hearing aids are an investment in your health and your quality of life. The cost of hearing loss, as shown through the study above – is even higher than anyone previously knew.

For more details about the study’s findings, see: “The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss” via John Hopkins Medicine (source: www.hopkinsmedicine.org)