Those who are affected by hearing loss are familiar with many of the ways the condition makes their lives more challenging, like being less able to follow a conversation or to enjoy music and movies, or experiencing greater risk in road traffic situations. Unfortunately, the risks associated with hearing loss extend beyond these common realities in ways we might not realise.
Hearing impairment’s effect on communication goes beyond the loss of social interactions. There are times when being able to understand communication is vital for non-social reasons. For example, consider that as many as one in four Australians have problems communicating with their general practitioners due to hearing loss, which could lead to significant health complications from misunderstanding important directives. The potential for hearing-related miscommunication also contributes to workplace accidents and increases stress on both the impaired worker and those around him or her. The more we think about it, the more we realise how many situations demand a clear hearing – discussing financial or legal matters, hearing kitchen timers to prevent burning, participating in sporting activities, driving, and being aware of others’ cries for assistance.
While these scenarios are not immediately obvious, once we consider the possibilities, we realise we might anticipate them to some degree. However, there are also some serious consequences of hearing loss that we probably could never imagine. Studies on hearing loss conducted by Johns Hopkins otologist Frank Lin have suggested that hearing loss contributes to mental impairment with age, possibly due to the decrease in information for the brain to process. His studies have also shown that hearing loss correlates to a significant increase in the risk of falling, suggesting that sound information is crucial in our awareness of our environment.
Lin’s studies have also indicated that the loss of engagement experienced by many hearing impaired people have deeper consequences than we might suspect – a physically and mentally undesirable decrease in overall activity and a susceptibility for longer periods of depression. Taken together, all of these hidden issues lead to hearing impaired people, especially elders, having more health problems generally.
Hearing isn’t a luxury; it is a vital part of a healthy and happy life. If you suspect you may need an evaluation of your hearing or that your current interventions may be leaving you or others around you at risk, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information and services.