Today’s audiologists have a much better understanding of hearing loss than doctors did just a decade ago. Each year, hundreds of studies on hearing loss are conducted in laboratories around the world. Through these studies, scientists have gathered important information about the underlying causes of hearing loss. Eventually, audiologists hope to use this information to develop a cure for the condition.
While improving treatment and discovering a cure for hearing loss is one important reason to conduct hearing loss research, that is not the only motive for ear-related experiments. Many of today’s scientific hearing loss studies highlight the risks and dangers of living with untreated hearing impairment.
Scientific studies link hearing loss to several serious illnesses and conditions that can negatively impact your life, including:
Depression and mental health
The National Council on the Aging conducted a 2,300-participant study on the effects of hearing loss on common mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, anger and paranoia. The results showed that people over 50 with untreated hearing loss were more likely to suffer from these conditions than those who used hearing devices. People over 50 with hearing loss on the more severe end of the spectrum, the study reported, are 8 percent more likely to be depressed than people who have sought treatment for their impairment.
Dementia and cognitive impairment
Dr. Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., has conducted several studies in the past few years associating hearing impairment and diminished mental abilities. These studies concluded that older people with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia as those with normal hearing, while moderate hearing loss leads to the risk increasing three-fold. Results were even less promising for seniors with severe hearing impairment, who, the study concluded, are five times more likely to develop dementia than their peers with normal hearing abilities.
Loss of income
The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income, published by the Better Hearing Institute, reported on the correlation between severity of hearing loss and average annual income. Its results showed that those with moderate hearing loss earn about $5,000 less per year on average than those with normal hearing. Furthermore, people with profound hearing loss made an average of $12,000 less than those with mild hearing loss each year.
In the 2013 article Obesity is associated with sensorineural hearing loss in adolescents, researchers identified a link between weight and sensorineural hearing loss in teens. Overweight adolescents were found to have hearing loss at almost twice the rate of teens who fell in the normal weight spectrum. While hearing loss doesn’t actually cause obesity, it’s important to understand the effects obesity can have on your hearing capabilities.
A 2013 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked into the relationship between hearing loss and health among Americans ages 70 and older. The results showed a correlation between different degrees of hearing loss and the likelihood of being hospitalized and/or developing a major disease. The study concluded from analysis of the compiled data that seniors with hearing loss had a 5 percent higher rate of hospitalization within the previous year than those with normal hearing.
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