People used to think hearing loss was like an island that bears no health risks. Research in the past decade has determined that hearing loss affects the mind and body in ways that were not previously known. The findings below add to a growing list of health consequences associated with hearing loss.
There are two causes for this link: social isolation and cognitive overload (brain working too hard to decipher speech.)
“When you can’t hear the person across from you, you won’t be engaged in conversation,” says Dr. Lin, an expert in the field. This social withdrawal leads to loneliness, which many studies have shown increases dementia risk.
Another cause may be cognitive overload. When the brain expends so much energy trying to decipher garbled words, it diminishes other cognitive functions.
Although tinnitus was reported as the main sleep disrupting factor, hearing impairment among workers exposed to harmful noise contributed to sleep impairment, especially insomnia, regardless of age or years of exposure.
Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events, according to WHO. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.
Hearing impairment was significantly associated with depression, particularly in women. Family & health care professionals should be aware of an increased risk for depression among adults with hearing loss.
People with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss, according to the latest national study by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). And the cost to society is estimated to be as high as $26 billion in unrealized federal taxes.
Women who took ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days per week had an increased risk of hearing loss. The more often a woman took either of these medications, the higher her risk for hearing loss. Also, the link between these medicines and hearing loss tended to be greater in women younger than 50 years old, especially for those who took ibuprofen six or more days per week.
Hearing loss has been linked with a variety of medical, social and cognitive ills, including dementia. However, a new study led by a Johns Hopkins researcher suggests that hearing loss may also be a risk factor for another huge public health problem: falls.