Preserving your hearing health has always been important. The importance of protecting your hearing has been a drum that professionals and educators constantly beat for you at a very early age. Young people have always been an at-risk population due to feelings of invincibility or not wanting to think about those kinds of things until we are older. But, now new light is being shed on the link between diminished hearing and diminished cognitive ability, underscoring the importance of taking good care of your hearing at any age. Correlations Found In Recent Studies
Recent studies have shown a consistent correlation between individuals who have suffered hearing loss, and affected cognitive processing, particularly in the frontal lobes. This correlation was not only found in older populations, an observation that has long been established. It has also appeared consistently in studies involving younger people. While educators have always emphasized to young people the need to take their hearing health seriously, the increased use of ear pods at unsafe volume levels and other exposure to occupational noise has increased the cause for concern in recent years.
A recent study published in eNeuro showed brain activity in younger adults ages 18 to 34 with mild hearing loss that indicated impacted cognitive ability. Up until this point, studies focused on the prevalence of impaired cognition in patients with cochlear implants, or older individuals living with reduced hearing. This is one of the first studies that demonstrate similar correlations in younger patients with hearing loss. While one study is not enough, it does give precedence for numerous other studies in the future that may build on that foundation. Overburdening The Brain
It also gives some support to the theory that dementia in older patients is a result of the brain devoting more processing power to understanding what is said, thereby fatiguing the brain. While this is not proven, it is one theory that differs from the thought that older adults with hearing loss experience dementia because of the resulting isolation that’s experienced as a result of slowly losing your hearing.
In the meantime, a new call for hearing awareness is underway, focusing on communicating the importance of protecting your ears while still in your youth, whether that be by listening to music at lower levels, paying attention to the noise levels in the room, or wearing earplugs at loud events or locations. More Research Needed
With more research, an increased effort can be placed on exploring the link between reduced hearing and cognition, and ways to mitigate that problem could be investigated. This would allow professionals to treat individuals living with hearing loss in a way that addresses the isolation they may feel from having reduced hearing to decrease risk of dementia, and medically treat any physiological ties between hearing loss and dementia.
In the meantime, whatever age you are, use headphones at safe volume levels, monitor your environment for atmospheric noise, and use earplugs whenever necessary. If you have any questions about hearing loss and cognition, please reach out to one of our hearing professionals today.
As we age, a decline in our health condition comes as a natural consequence of our bodies living longer. But some conditions seem to go hand in hand. And, with hearing loss, it’s no different. The risk of psychological and medical conditions such as dementia and depression heighten as a result of untreated hearing loss in older populations. This fact is especially concerning given the high rate of hearing loss that goes untreated.
To investigate this issue further, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health led a 10-year longitudinal study in conjunction with AARP, University of California San Francisco and OptumLabs. Two groups were studied: individuals with untreated hearing loss, and those without hearing loss. Over a two-year period, individuals with untreated hearing loss incurred 26 percent more in health care costs compared to those without hearing loss, a gap that expanded to 46 percent by 10 years. Growing Aging Population
This statistic is concerning given expectations for the aging population to grow to nearly 76 million in the United States by 2060. Two-thirds of adults 70 years and older have significant hearing loss, many of whom go untreated.
To investigate further, researchers data mined anonymized healthcare patient data from OptumLabs Data Warehouse to identify what specific characteristics stood out between patients with untreated hearing loss and patients who did not experience hearing loss.
They found that in a 10 year period, patients with untreated hearing loss experienced 50 percent more hospital stays, a 44 percent higher rate of hospital readmission within one month, were 17% more likely of revisiting the emergency department, and had 52 more outpatient visits on a whole than those without hearing loss. Individuals with treated hearing loss were not included in the study. Links Between Medical Costs And Hearing Loss
Interestingly enough, only $600 of the total $22,434 of extra costs for medical care were spent solely on hearing loss related services. While the study did not determine exactly why costs are so much higher for those with untreated hearing loss, researchers offered some ideas that presented avenues for further investigation.
One idea follows the logical assumption regarding what kind of psychological fallout occurs as a result of untreated hearing loss. Higher incidences of depression and dementia occur within this population. Medical consequences of higher rates of depression, dementia, and similar conditions result in the form of more emergency room visits, hospital readmittance, and medical conditions related to falls.
Even though intuition would tell us that the high incidence of dementia, depression, hospital visits, and falls are due to untreated hearing loss, not enough scientific studies have been performed to establish this link. Another theory behind higher medical costs is the degraded communication ability between patient and provider. Those who have a difficult time hearing may misinterpret information provided to them by medical professionals.
However, recent changes in federal law have made the sale of over the counter assistive listening devices such as hearing aids permissible. This and increasing supply of assistive listening devices in doctors offices will help people with hearing loss communicate better and improve their quality of life.
Coping with sensory loss isn’t easy. Those who can talk to a peer for support have more success dealing with feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as other fallout from their loss. Peers dealing with the same issues can provide help, advice, and share common experiences.
While mechanisms such as talk therapy, support groups, and others have been around for some time, little research has been dedicated to discovering the long term benefits of peer support from the peer’s point of view.
Two studies were conducted that canvased the feedback of ordinary people and their partners or other support peers living with sensory loss. They were asked, “What advice would you give to other couples who are living with sensory loss?”
In the first study, people between ages 50 and 85, revealed some keen advice for people who find themselves in similar situations. They talked about how vital seeking support from peer organizations is, as well as gaining support from partners and healthcare professionals. Patient-led groups were at the top of the list for the kind of support participants suggested people seek. They highlighted key traits partners should have to support their loved ones adequately: honesty, patience, understanding, unity, acceptance, respect, compassion, positivity, and respect for independence.
The second study consisted of participants in a younger age category, but the results were similar. They focused on the importance of being compassionate, mutually supportive, patience, and understanding. Here are some quotes from the study:
“Talk to each about the difficulties; not only big issues but also the little frustrations in everyday life… Comfort and support each other when you face frustrations related to the sensory loss.”
– hard-of-hearing partner
“If you can, try to laugh about any mishaps – my partner laughs and lovingly calls me ‘silly lady’ whenever I keep bumping into things (that I don’t see) or misunderstand stuff he said. That takes the edge off and lets me laugh as well. Be intimate.”
– deafblind partner
Feeling supported was linked to showing understanding, patience, and acceptance. Thus, similar to the first study, these were also recommended by the participants of the second study:
“Find out what works best for you. Not everyone adapts the same. Be patient and tolerant of the partner’s frustration when simple ideas become obstacles because of misunderstandings.”
– deafblind partner Professional Support
While participants highly encouraged the support of peers, they did not forget to emphasize the qualities of professional help as well. Many participants mentioned the benefits of counseling, online groups, healthcare professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and technical experts. In this way, peers and professionals can work together to provide a comprehensive network of support for those who are adjusting to or maintaining a full life living with hearing loss.
If you or a loved one is dealing with hearing loss, there are plenty of support waiting for you. Whether you need professional help or the friendship of a peer, reach out to one of our professionals today. We can help you find the support you need.
Valentine’s Day is an annual chance to express your love and thankfulness for the fantastic people in your life, particularly your significant other. For many of us, this involves giving flowers or chocolates, preparing breakfast in bed, or going out for dinner and drinks with that special someone. But, for those of us who live with hearing loss, it can be tricky to fully experience such a special day in a world created by and for hearing people.
While many people with hearing loss find that it can be difficult to fully enjoy a holiday, a new study has investigated the value and benefits of support that a significant other can provide for a partner with hearing loss, thus sparking a conversation about how we can create the best possible experience for our loved ones during the holidays and throughout the year. The Study
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Montreal, investigated the coping and support mechanisms at play in relationships where one or both partners experience some form of sensory loss, both hearing and visual. Before conducting this study, the researchers noticed that most information about support for people with sensory loss comes from researchers and specialists, without taking into account the voices of people who actually experience hearing loss. In an effort to change this practice, the researchers focused their study on actual couples living with acquired sensory loss.
The data in this study were drawn from two sources: in-person interviews with 12 couples in Denmark with acquired deafblindness and an online survey of 72 adults with sensory loss and 39 of their spouses. The couples in both studies were asked, “What advice would you give to other couples who are living with sensory loss?” and their advice is both unique and insightful. Advice For Couples With Hearing Loss
While no two couples with sensory loss will have the same experiences, couples with newly developed hearing loss may find it difficult to navigate their new world or to support each other in the initial stages of their new condition. The advice from people who have experienced these difficulties firsthand can be incredibly helpful as couples re-establish norms and support mechanisms in the face of new adversity. Here’s what participants in the study recommend:
Seek out peer support. While many healthcare professionals may suggest that people with new sensory loss diagnoses seek out counseling and therapy services, many people with hearing loss find that peer support and patient-led organizations are particularly helpful in learning to live one’s best life even with sensory loss.
Be open and honest with your partner. If you have a new hearing loss diagnosis, you may naturally turn to your partner for support. But, as this is a new experience for both of you, it’s important to be honest about what you need to feel supported. Moreover, patience and understanding are key to accepting the new sensory loss while also respecting each person’s independence and choices.
Discuss what your partner can do to support you in public situations. For many people with newly diagnosed, sensory loss having to rely on others to interact in public can be a difficult new process to get used to. To best support a partner without diminishing their independence, it’s important to discuss how you can help them get the most out of a public conversation before they happen.
Focus on what someone can do, not what they can’t. In the deaf community, there’s a common saying that the only thing a deaf person can’t do is hear. This is an incredibly important thing to remember when faced with a new sensory loss diagnosis. While it’s easy to concentrate on the things that someone can no longer do or experience, focusing more on what someone can do can be empowering and affirming.
Although living with sensory loss can be challenging, a supportive, open, and understanding partner can help bring a positive attitude to the mix. Even those of us without sensory loss have a lot to learn from the support mechanisms in place within couples with sensory loss.