Do you ever wonder what your hearing loss will cost you? It’s easy to think a decline in hearing is normal as a person grows older, so why not just ignore it? There is probably no reason to worry about it, right? That’s all assuming you even know you have hearing loss in the first place.
It’s common to think that a little hearing loss won’t hurt. Researchers are just now starting to understand the problems that can come with hearing decline, especially how it might affect the brain. New technology is opening up some surprising data, too. Okay, how big of a problem is that lack of hearing? Here are seven hidden risks that come with it if you choose to ignore the problem.
#1. What are You Missing?
Let’s begin with a basic concern. What are you are not hearing these days? Did your grandchild just say he loves you? How many of those have you missed? How does that make him feel when you don’t hear him say it?
Lack of hearing can isolate you in a way that you might not understand. Everyone likes a little privacy now and then, but there is a difference between isolation and wanting some alone time. You are missing out on hearing the birds sing in the morning. You don’t hear the rainfall or the wind whistle.
Missing out on the important sounds is something that changes your life at every level. It gets in the way of your ability to socialize with others, develop friendships and do your job well. It also makes that precious little grandson feel ignored when he says she loves you.
#2 Social Decline
It’s possible that your hearing loss is more recognizable that you want to think, too. Struggling to hear and that need to focus on what is being said during casual conversation can cause you to withdraw from social situations. Hearing loss will destroy self-confidence and that has an impact, as well. If you find yourself turning down invitations, stop for a minute to evaluate your why. Do you really want to stay home and watch TV or is there something else going on?
#3 Mental Decline
Just recently, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered that even mild hearing loss can increase an individual’s risk of dementia. In a study conducted by Frank Lin, M.D., PhD., researchers followed 639 people for 12 years. Those with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to experience cognitive problems and with moderate hearing loss, the risk tripled. The study participants with serious impairment left untreated were five times more likely to develop conditions like dementia.
The researchers also found that hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline. The volunteers that developed age-related hearing loss over the 12 years of the study showed signs of mental decline up to 40 percent faster than the recipients with normal hearing.
The brain takes the noise that enters the ears and turns it into words and sounds that you can understand. The problem is when you can’t comprehend certain words, your brain will attempt to fill the void and that causes stress. That constant need to compensate for a hearing deficit is one of the reasons for the increased risk of memory problems. It can also leave you feeling mentally exhausted after a meeting or night out with friends.
#5 Poor Work Performance
Your hearing is one of your most critical assets when it comes to your career. When that asset is functioning poorly, it will affect your ability to make money and move up in your job. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found hearing loss had a financial impact. They surveyed 40,000 households to discover that individuals with some hearing loss made up to 12,000 dollars less annually. The culprit is poor communication skills that lead to declined productivity and work-related errors.
There is a clear safety issue associated with that untreated hearing loss, too, both in and outside the home. If you don’t hear a car coming towards you, what’s to keep you from stepping off the curb? How about something closer to your heart like a family member’s cry for help or the fire alarm going off in the middle of the night.
All these other risks combined will begin to impact you on a mental level, according to the National Council on the Aging. They found a connection between untreated hearing loss and depression in older people. Poor hearing is common as a person ages. In the U.S., it affects more than nine million people over the age of 65. Of those that don’t get hearing aids, around 30 people report some level depression.
You don’t have to live with hearing loss. It’s a choice for most people and one that does come with significant hidden risks.
#1 Learn to Filter Noise at Home
When you workout your ears, you workout your mind too! Noise filtering is just the term we use to talk about how we can concentrate on something important and tune out the audible distractions around us. Keeping this skill sharp means being able to hear a conversation in a noisy restaurant.
To start practicing you’ll need music from a couple of different devices – perhaps a TV and tablet, you’ll also need a partner to converse with. You’ll be focused on the conversation while trying to ignore the audio from your devices.
It’s best to do this in a room where you’ll be able to easily adjust or shut off your distraction devices.
How to do the Exercise
It’s easy for anyone to get lost or overwhelmed in a conversation when there is a lot of distracting noise, however this can become a nearly impossible challenge for those with significant hearing loss. Something as common as your heater or AC unit coming on could make it impossible to hear unless you keep your mind and ears agile with exercises like this one.
Begin your practice in a comfortable space. You’ll want to avoid fidgeting so you can focus. When possible, find a quiet room for this exercise. It will be less frustrating if you have control over the distracting sounds.
Start a conversation and turn one device on low. Are you both still using your normal speaking voices? Can you hear the other person? If you answered yes to both questions, then keep moving on, if not, turn the volume down on the device until you can comfortably hear and speak with the other person.
After you’ve gotten used to filtering out one music source, try adding in the second one. To make it more of a challenge, try adjusting the volume or adding on even more devices. The nice part of this exercise is both you and your friend are doing something good for your ears and minds!
#2 Identify and Locate Sounds
Wait, what was that noise? It’s a question that most people ask at some point. This means that everyone can benefit from practicing how to locate a sound and figuring out what’s making it to strengthen their hearing.
This is a lot like the previous exercise, so you won’t need fancy tools or equipment. It’s also a great training exercise for outdoors whether you’re in the country or a major city. The goal is to surround yourself with varied sounds. The more diverse the environment the better!
How to do the Exercise
This straightforward task is good for your mental health because it works to strengthen the connections and pathways the brain needs to translate information coming from the ears. In other words, it will work to fine-tune your thinking so you can do more with less effort!
Look for a space that is bustling but comfortable. Maybe use the local shopping mall or food court. Now, close your eyes and focus on one single sound around you. Let your mind help you determine where that sound is coming from and what’s making it. Is it someone’s shoes clicking? Maybe it’s a child clapping her hands? If you can’t quite identify it try to figure out how big the object is that’s making the sound and how it makes you feel, or even what type of material might be used to create it. All of these small puzzle pieces together will help you determine what the noise is and strengthen your hearing at the same time.
#3 Play Brain Games
Not every exercise has to be a major hearing challenge. You can work all of your senses, including your hearing, by strengthening your mind. The brain serves as your translator, so you can improve sound recognition by focusing on its overall functioning. A doctor or hearing professional can provide you with specific games to improve your mental agility, but there are some you can do on your own.
How to do the Exercise
There are quite a few games that work for one or more players. For example, any kind of logic or strategy game will help and you can play it on your tablet, on your table, or in the newspaper.
Speaking of print publications, crossword puzzles and number games like Sudoku are powerful mind puzzles for someone who wants to flex their mental muscles on their own. Even tasks like crocheting will work your mind and keep it strong. Memory games are especially effective. They can be as basic as a card game or as exciting as a shell game. If those don’t appeal to you, keep looking because there are much more out there. For example, remember the Rubik’s cube? It can provide hours of pattern recognition and problem-solving practice.
Of course, don’t forget the social brain games such as playing chess, checkers, or scrabble with friends and family. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you’re using your noggin!
Is your hearing loss leaving you feeling just a little less than? Less than intelligent, perhaps, because you must fight to stay involved in every conversation. How about a little alone? It probably seems like your friends and family are avoiding you. Maybe hearing loss has left you devoid of energy. Just the effort to hear and comprehend every sound is exhausting.
Depression is a natural side effect of hearing loss, especially when it is associated with aging, because the decline is gradual and easy to miss. In between the various moods you experience are periods of enhanced stress because you don’t really understand what’s happening to you. If all this sounds a bit like your life, then you could probably use a pick-me-up. How about a compliment?
A 2012 study published by the National Institutes of Natural Science found that people do better when another person compliments them. The ability to give and receive compliments offers a number of health benefits like boosting your immune system and making you more productive. Of course, if you have hearing loss, you are not enjoying those compliments like you used to or the health perks that come with them. What kinds of compliments do you think you might be missing?
The Ones That Offer Support
When is the last time someone told you they believe in you? With hearing loss, they might be saying it and you don’t know. A sense of accomplishment is tough to pull off on a regular basis without a little support from your friends and family. You might feel that way when you complete a project or finish a workout, but it’s fleeting sensation on its own. As a culture, we rely heavily on what other people think of the things we do.
If you have presbycusis, the medical name for age-related hearing loss, you may not hear a grandchild express her belief and love in you or the lady in your life’s message of support. This form of hearing loss makes high pitches like the female voice hard to understand.
You might, on the other hand, easily pick out the sound of a man’s voice, but it isn’t clear and crisp. The deep tones come off more like gruff and less like a statement of support because you miss the occasional word and your brain fills in the void.
Age-related hearing loss is a consequence of the things people do all their lives that damage their hearing like wearing headphones or going to concerts each week. Even playing the music in the car loud has a cumulative effect. These actions take a toll on the delicate mechanisms of the ear, which is why professionals warn people to start protecting them early in life.
Nature’s Own Complements
Often the sounds that help the most are not man-made. Nature has its own way of soothing you with her diverse set of sounds. Do you enjoy hearing the birds sing in the morning or the wind blowing through the trees? Perhaps you like listening to the rainfall. Since presbycusis tends to develop slowly, you might not even know these things are missing from your life, well, until you put on hearing aids for the first time and they all come back to you.
The Benefit of Feeling Safe Compliments Your Life
When you lose your hearing there is more to consider than just how you feel, too. Hearing loss is a safety issue because you’ve lived your whole life relying on your ears to warn you of danger. Sound tells you there is a car coming your way and you need to move, for example. If you miss the sound of the horn, the person standing behind you yells a warning to get you going. Those danger flags are likely gone when you live with untreated hearing loss.
The Environmental Compliments
What about the little things around the house that you know longer hear? When is the last time the dryer signaled that clothes were ready? All those wrinkled clothes are enough to make anyone depressed.
There are more serious issues to think about at home, too, like the smoke alarm. Conventional ones offer a high-pitch sound that a person with a hearing problem might miss. Manufacturers now provide special types of smoke and carbon monoxide warning systems with low-frequency tones just for that reason along with other types of signals like flashing lights or shaking the beds. You won’t have these safeguards in place, though, unless you recognize your hearing loss.
Getting Back on the Compliment Track
Now that you know what you are missing, what can you do about it? There is more at stake here than just the occasional compliment to make you feel good. Hearing loss has a significant impact on your quality of life and safety. If you are noticing fewer compliments coming your way, maybe it’s time to make an appointment for a hearing exam and professional hearing test.
Do tongue twisters help improve your ear health? One could make the argument that tongue twisters are effective for brain health and there is a clear overlap between the brain and ears. Tongue twisters bring with them a unique linguistic anomaly – the double onset. In one study, a team from MIT, working with a number of universities, looked closer at this phenomenon. They brought together some volunteers and had them record different tongue-twisting word groupings to see if they could create problem scenarios like word reversals – a good example of the double onset
What they discovered was a pattern of mistakes relates to each tongue twister. What does all that have to do with your ear health? The tongue twisters we face in adult life are not as clever as “Rubber baby buggy bumpers” but they can be just as tricky. Medical terminology is a fine example of this in action and the hearing health industry is full of many of these types of tongue twisters. Even if you can’t say them fast, you still need to understand them and know what they mean for you and your ears. Consider seven tongue-twisting words that you should know.
That’s a tricky word. It’s pronounced like this: [oh-toh-lar-ing-gol–uh-jist]. An otolaryngologist is an ear doctor with a focus in otorhinolaryngology – a medical-surgical subspecialty for the study and treatment of conditions that affect the ear, nose and throat. Doctors who study this specialty may also be called ENT surgeons. Their job is to do surgeries of the ear, nose, throat and base of the skull. This is the specialist you would see for many different procedures including cochlear implants.
An otolaryngologist is a physician who must complete an additional five years of surgical residency training. Once done, he or she undergoes fellowship training that lasts one or two more years.
That’s is a real tongue-twister. Sensorineural pronounced: [sen-suh-ree-noo r-uh l] and it indicates a very specific kind of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, known also as sensory hearing loss, means you have a problem with the inner ear problem that is affecting your hearing — typically involving the hair cells in the cochlea. That is not the same thing as conductive hearing loss, which refers specifically to the movement of sound waves toward the inner ear. It is estimated that about 90 percent of hearing loss falls under the category of sensorineural.
Yeah, that’s a twister for sure. The pronunciation is: [ô′dē-ŏl′ə-jē-kel] and it means something related to audiology, which is the study of hearing. Another word that falls into that same core classification is an audiologist, which is a specialist that performs and interprets various kinds of hearing tests such as the pure tone audiometry or the otoacoustic emission measurement.
More tongue twisters but, ultimately, it boils down to assessing your hearing deficits and strengths to determine the level of hearing loss and make recommendations for things like hearing aids.
Hard to pronounce, [prez-by-coo-sis], but an important term to know. This is what most people call age-related hearing loss. Presbycusis is not really about age, though. It is the cumulation of various stressors that eventually affect hearing ability. Every time you put on those headphones, you are stressing out the delicate mechanisms of the ear, leading you one step closer to presbycusis.
It sounds a little like something you’d play in band class, but tympanometry is actually a type of hearing examination. Pronounced [tim-pan–ohm-i-tree], this test involves the introduction of air pressure into the ear canal to see how the mechanical components of the ear function. Specifically, this test is a measurement of the mobility of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and it tells a specialist if there is fluid in the middle ear, how well the middle ear system moves and the ear canal volume.
This word has critical meaning when it comes to hearing health. Pronounced [o-tuh-tok-sis-i-tee], it refers to something that is toxic to the ear and usually applies to medication. Certain types of antibiotics, for example, can cause hearing loss. This is also true for certain over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. If you worried, you should ask your doctor before taking a drug to find out if it is ototoxic.
That one’s not quite so hard to say but it is a good one to know. Pronounced [aw-dee-uh-gram], this is a chart produced by a professional hearing test. It maps out the tones at different frequencies and how well you can hear them.
Whether they twist your tongue or not, these are words worth understanding. Your hearing health relies on the little things you do to protect it like seeing an ear doctor regularly and getting a hearing test done. Now is a good time to educate yourself by learning the terminology that affects your ear health.
Are there jobs that you wouldn’t want to try if you are hearing impaired? It might seem like hearing loss is the kind of thing that would hold one back, but it affects more than 20 percent of the people in the U.S. Many of them have jobs that might appear difficult to do without almost perfect hearing. You’d be surprised, individuals with hearing loss are lawyers, actors, musicians, lawmakers, judges and, yes, even doctors.
The fact is determined people who are hearing challenged find few limitations in their lives, especially given today’s advancements in hearing technology. Physicians that face this problem just look for workarounds that help them accomplish their goals. It is, after all, one small obstacle in a road full of challenges. How do physicians who have hearing loss manage their jobs?
They Understand Their Condition
Who knows better than a medical practitioner that hearing loss and intellectual ability having nothing to do with one another. Being hearing impaired is simply a mechanical failure of one or more portions of the auditory system. It has nothing to do with cognitive function or problem-solving skills.
A person with hearing loss must start by accepting that they can’t let themselves be held back by this one sense or lack of it. Doctors look for solutions to overcome the potentials hurdles related to their ear health.
They Get a Professional Diagnosis
A physician with a gradual hearing loss would automatically know to do what everyone else should — see an ear specialist and get a proper diagnosis. The hearing reduction can occur for different reasons, some of which will be reversible. Maybe the problem is excess ear wax, for example.
Chances are a medical doctor will also understand the importance of getting regular hearing tests to gauge their decline. This allows you to be proactive about your hearing health.
They Get Hearing Assistance
There is no rule that says you must learn to live with hearing loss. Doctors understand the importance of hearing assistance tools like good quality digital hearing aids. After the hearing test, a physician would know to work with a certified retailer to find a brand and model hearing aid that best suits his or her needs.
It’s possible a physician might do well with hearing aids that are Bluetooth compatible, for instance, and have directional microphones. Bluetooth allows the physician to connect the hearing aids to a smartphone or computer and directional microphones enhance conversation in noisy environments. Noise reduction probably comes in handy, as well, to filter out background noise.
They Get a Strong Support System
For a medical provider that might include joining professional organizations to network with colleagues facing the same challenges. The Association of Medical Professionals With Hearing Losses is a good fit for our industrious doctor. They not only connect you with other professionals online and via conferences, but they offer some must-have resources, too including ones that help the hearing challenged physician to find the right stethoscope.
They Use Their Disability to Grow
There is little doubt that hearing loss, whether it is new or something you have lived with your whole life, opens up new challenges, but, just maybe, it opens the door to opportunities, as well. Take Dr. Philip Zazove, for example. Dr. Zazove has been deaf most of his life and faced those challenges first hand. He states in an article for CNN Health that he applied to 12 different medical schools and struggled to even get interviews despite doing well on the MCATs. After attending graduate school, he finally was given a chance to go to medical school.
Today, he uses his hearing loss to better relate to his patients. In his family practice, he works with many who are hard of hearing or profoundly deaf. His life experiences have given him a unique opportunity to help others find their path.
What do doctors with hearing loss do? The same thing anyone does, they push forward against the things that work to hold them back and that starts with a proper diagnosis and hearing test, though.
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