Discover how hearing loss can affect your mental and physical health.
Hearing Loss and Cognition
Hearing loss is the inability to clearly hear sound in one or both ears. Approximately 48 million Americans have hearing loss to some degree, yet many people wait an average of seven years to seek treatment. When left untreated, hearing loss can negatively affect your communication, brain health, and social relationships.
We don’t actually hear with our ears, we “hear” with our brain. When our brain doesn’t receive the proper sound stimulation due to hearing loss, this can lead to forgetfulness, listening fatigue, and cognitive decline. Our brains need our hearing to stay active and healthy.
Hearing and Health
Although the most common causes of hearing loss are age related or from loud noise exposure, there are some health conditions that can lead to hearing impairment as well. Heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are all connected to hearing loss. This is due to the fact that each of these conditions affect the tiny blood vessels in the inner ear. When these blood vessels swell or don’t receive enough blood flow, it can cause hearing loss. If you have any health conditions, it’s important to have your hearing checked on an annual basis. This way you can catch any signs of hearing loss early and be proactive about your cognitive health.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often occurs gradually, over the course of a few years. For this reason, it can be difficult to recognize the signs right away. Here are some common indicators of hearing loss and that you should have your hearing evaluated.
- Sounds seem muffled or unclear
- You frequently ask people to repeat themselves
- You miss parts of the conversation
- Women and children’s voices are harder to hear
- You have to turn the volume up on the TV
- You hear a ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- A loved one has suggested you have your hearing tested
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is diagnosed in varying degrees: mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, or profound. There are also different types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common and occurs when there is damage to the hearing nerve inside the inner ear. This is often caused by age, genetics, ototoxic medications, repeated loud noise exposure, or an underlying health condition – such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. This type of hearing loss can be successfully managed with hearing aids.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when the outer and middle ear cannot conduct sound to the inner ear. This is often due to ear infection, impacted earwax, fluid in the middle ear, ruptured eardrum, or head/ear trauma. Conductive hearing loss will need to be treated by a medical professional through surgery or antibiotics.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive.