For decades, untreated hearing loss was considered medically harmless. But over the last ten years, researchers began looking at the impact it could have on physical and mental health. One of the most troubling connections is to the increase in feelings of loneliness.
The Effects of Loneliness
Hearing loss has been linked to an increase in loneliness. One Dutch study determined that each decibel drop in perception in people under the age of 70 saw a seven percent increase in the odds of becoming severely lonely.
Health Effects of Loneliness
Loneliness and social isolation can be extremely detrimental to your health.
One study found that loneliness is as hazardous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It can increase the risk of developing depression, dementia and even early death.
Loneliness is also associated with:
- High blood pressure
- Increased stress hormone
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of dementia
In fact, social isolation can raise the risk of dementia by 40 percent and the odds of an early death by 26 percent.
Risk of Dementia
Over a ten-year period, untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of developing dementia by 50 percent, depression by 40 percent and falls by 30 percent.
Researchers are now looking at the link between loneliness, hearing loss and dementia. In 2018 researchers at John Hopkins University launched the first large randomized controlled study looking to determine if hearing treatment could prevent or slow cognitive decline. These findings could revolutionize dementia care.
The study is expected to be completed in 2022 and will also examine the impact of hearing loss on loneliness. Dr. Frank Lin, director of Johns Hopkins’ Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health believes that loneliness could be a contributing factor to the link between hearing loss and dementia.
Dr. Lin conducted a small study and determined that hearing aids helped to reduce dementia symptoms.
The Barrier to Treatment
Even with this much research connecting untreated hearing loss to a number of health conditions, only about 20 percent of American adults wear hearing aids to treat their hearing loss.
Experts believe that accessibility plays a major role in keeping people from seeking treatment. In addition, the time and energy to get hearing aids fit properly can be frustrating. Many find it hopeless and give up.
With new research coming out, experts hope they can help more patients with untreated hearing loss seek help. To learn more about your hearing loss treatment options or to get started today, contact the experts at the Hearing Zone.