February 26, 2013

What Harm is a Little Hearing Loss?

margaretBy Margaret Christiansen, AU.D, CCC-A
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

Can a little hearing loss really be that bad? Studies are showing that the effects of hearing loss can be more far-reaching than just difficulty hearing.

In 1999, the National Council on Aging found those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to experience sadness, depression, paranoia, anxiety, reduced social activity and emotional turmoil compared to those who have treated hearing loss. (1) Hearing loss can be a frustrating problem for individuals and creates a roadblock to communication and social interaction. When an individual is unable to hear what is going on around them, they tend to pull back from social situations and the interactions that once brought them joy.

Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association (Internal Medicine) released a study that indicates there may be a link between hearing loss and dementia. (2) This study found seniors with hearing loss are more likely to experience cognitive decline than those without hearing loss. While this study links hearing loss and dementia, it does not prove that one causes the other. The author of the study, Dr. Frank Lin from John Hopkins University, believes that social isolation resulting from hearing loss in addition to underlying cognitive factors may play a role in this finding. He also speculates that social isolation resulting from hearing loss and increased cognitive load (increased mental energy needed to figure out what others are saying) may also be a factor.

We are fortunate to live in a day and age where technology is on our side. Indivi-duals do not have to live with the negative effects of hearing loss. The decision to treat hearing loss is up to you.

Below are some common symptoms of hearing loss. If you or a loved one consistently experiences these difficulties, contact an audiologist for evaluation.

• Frequently asks for repetition

Difficulty understanding conversation, especially in background noise

• Increased television volume

Withdrawal from social and public gatherings due to frustration with hearing

If you suffer from hearing loss, help is available!

1. Full text of study can be found at http://www.hearingoffice.com/download/UntreatedHearingLossReport.pdf

2. Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD; Kristine Yaffe, MD; Jin Xia, MS; Qian-Li Xue, PhD; Tamara B. Harris, MD, MS; Elizabeth Purchase-Helzner, PhD; Suzanne Satterfield, MD, DrPH; Hilsa N. Ayonayon, PhD; Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD; Eleanor M. Simonsick, PhD; for the Health ABC Study Group JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-7. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868.