Research from the USA suggests that the difference in cognitive ability between people with an untreated hearing loss and normal hearing is the equivalent of seven years. Why is this?
If you asked people what the common symptoms of hearing loss are, most would say turning the television up too loud or comically mishearing words. Not many people would identify a feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day. Yet this is one of the first symptoms experienced by people with a hearing loss and its effects can be far-reaching.
Having a mild hearing loss has been compared to travelling abroad when you only speak a little bit of the language. The constant effort needed to follow the conversation can leave you feeling exhausted.
People with a hearing loss focus more of their brain’s processing power on understanding the conversations around them. They have to concentrate harder to fill in the gaps that they miss and to pull the speech out from background noises. As a result people with a hearing loss often start to withdraw from doing things they used to enjoy because the effort involved is too tiring or because they feel embarrassed or excluded.
It is this withdrawal and not the hearing loss itself, that scientists believe leads to the deterioration of the cognitive abilities. Being socially active protects against dementia possibly because it relieves stress which is harmful to the brain. It also reduces the possibility of depression. So, if hearing loss leads a person to avoid social situations, it increases their chances of developing dementia and depression.
The good news is that these risks can be easily reduced. The simple act of recognising and treating hearing loss, can often give people the confidence and motivation they need to remain socially active.
So could a hearing aid make you feel seven years younger? Maybe not physically; but certainly mentally.
A hearing loss is more obvious than hearing aids.
Many people worry that wearing hearing aids will age them, but if anything the opposite is true. Modern hearing aids are so small that they are very difficult to spot on the ear. And the technology they contain brings immense benefits. Some hearing aids are now so advanced that they can even be controlled directly from devices such as iPhones. And of course they give you the mental agility of someone seven years younger than you. Now who wouldn’t want that?
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