Investing in Your Health Treating Hearing Loss

Investing in Your Health: Treating Hearing Loss

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*

Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*

Treating hearing loss has profound direct benefits. It’s difficult to quantify the value of being able to converse easily and clearly with loved ones and community members. How can we measure the improvement of one’s quality of life when treatment for hearing loss makes it possible to experience the richness of the sound world, including birds singing, children laughing, and music? Although these direct benefits seem immeasurable, there are countless indirect benefits of treating hearing loss, as well. Some researchers have taken a step toward quantifying these benefits in terms of statistics related to hearing loss treatment. 

The big categories of benefits—physical, social, mental, cognitive, financial, and so on—can be wrapped into a single striking statistic. Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins University led a team of researchers to use big data methods to quantify the increased risk of death for those who have untreated hearing loss. In their article titled “Association of Hearing Impairment and Mortality in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery in 2015, these researchers estimated that those who have moderate to severe hearing loss have a 54% greater risk of death, and even those with mild hearing loss have a 27% greater risk of death than those with no hearing loss. How can this be? When we consider the holistic nature of health, we can see that hearing loss affects each level of wellbeing in profound ways. 

Physical Health

The connections between hearing loss and physical health occur in a number of specific ways. Some of these relationships are at the level of correlation. For instance, although hearing loss does not cause hypertension or diabetes, those with hearing loss are more likely to have those conditions due to their interconnected nature. In other cases, it seems like hearing loss is actually causing a greater risk of poor physical health. One of the clearest examples is the increased risk of accidents and injuries for those who have untreated hearing loss. It is possible that not only are audible cues missed but also that the subtle echolocation effect in space is impaired such that those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to require hospitalization for accidents and injuries. 

Social, Mental, and Cognitive Health

In addition to these physical relationships, those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to have poor social, mental, and cognitive health. Social isolation is more common among those with hearing loss, and that single phenomenon is correlated with a wide range of other negative effects, ranging from depression to obesity. Indeed, anxiety seems to be directly related to the experience of hearing loss, as well. When it comes to cognitive health, there is a strong relationship between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Not only are those with untreated hearing loss more likely to have dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, but they tend to experience a faster rate of cognitive decline, as well. 

Financial Health

In addition to these bodily experiences of hearing loss, those who don’t receive treatment tend to have worse financial stability, as well. The Better Hearing Institute estimated in 2011 that the cost of untreated hearing loss could be as much as $30,000 per year. This loss of wages has to do not only with the inability to perform certain tasks but also to be effective and productive in jobs that require communication. As you can see, there might be a direct financial investment that is achieved through getting hearing loss treatment for those who are in the workforce. 

With these many types of investments in your health and wellbeing through treatment for hearing loss, it is remarkable how many people continue to avoid getting the help they need. If you are one of the people with untreated hearing loss, don’t delay reaping the benefits of treatment. The first step is to get a thorough diagnosis through a hearing test. Once we have this information in hand, we can connect you with recommendations for the right range of hearing aids to suit your individual needs and lifestyle. With so many benefits available to you, the investment is sure to give a robust return!