A series of recent studies have come to enlightening findings for those who experience hearing loss and choose to avoid treatment.
How hearing loss may restrict mobility
Researchers at University of Jyväskylä and University of Tampere, both located in Finland, conducted several studies into the consequences of hearing loss.
One of the studies, headed by Doctoral Student Hanelle Polku, studied 848 men and women aged 75-90 and focused on how people move within their homes and their participation in community activities (source). After monitoring individuals for two years, it was found that that people who experience difficulties with hearing are more than twice as likely than those without hearing loss to restrict their movement only to nearby areas and, within those areas, to have more limited movement generally.
How restricted mobility caused by hearing loss may impact upon quality of life
The studies also indicated that this relative lack of movement could have negative knock-on effects on a person’s quality of life, including the ability to engage in hobbies and activities. These findings support previous research that suggests that hearing loss can have negative impacts upon a person’s ability to communicate, relationships with loved ones and in the workplace (hearinglink.org) as well as adverse emotional impacts (socialworktoday.com).
The studies also point to the fact that the impacts of hearing loss are often specific to an individual. Perhaps surprisingly, the studies indicate that those with a more active, sociable lifestyle are in fact more likely to feel the effects of hearing loss.
The full studies were published in The Journals of Gerontology and BMC Geriatrics. It is also a part of the international project “Hearing, remembering and living well”, which is funded by the Academy of Finland.
Other findings linking hearing loss to reduced quality of life: Relationships
When a person is experiencing hearing loss, it can lead to frustration and anxiety surrounding conversations in noisy environments or difficulties enjoying activities. This can put strain on relationships, particularly with friends and family.
The good news is that studies have shown a direct link between treating hearing loss through the use of hearing aids and improvement in relationships. In addition, treating hearing loss can also lead to a greater willingness to participate in social activities.
Linking the research together, this indicates that the use of hearing devices is likely to improve mobility and therefore enhance a person’s quality of life overall.
Happiness and hearing loss: How treatment can help
Another way that hearing loss may impact upon a person’s lifestyle is emotionally. Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to depression. In fact, older people with hearing loss are 2.5 times more likely to develop depression than those without any hearing impairments (actionhearingloss.org). This may be linked to the social isolation suggested by the Finnish studies (hear-it.org).
While treating hearing loss through the use of hearing instruments may be able to help, the reality is that only 1 of 5 (or 20%) of Americans who would benefit from hearing devices actually seek treatment. In addition, the average waiting time between a person’s initial diagnosis and their fitting is 10 years! (asha.org).
One of the reasons for this reluctance may simply be because hearing loss is often gradual, and it can take time to fully realize the impacts of it. This is one of many reasons why active involvement of loved ones is very important. A recent study showed that involving your significant other in learning about strategies on how to communicate could increase overall satisfaction and quality of life.
Staying active as a key to preventing hearing loss
It’s common knowledge that an active lifestyle can help keep people healthy in body, mind and spirit, but staying active can also help to prevent hearing loss (www.brighamandwomens.org).
Considering the findings of the Finnish studies – in particular, that hearing loss can lead to reduced mobility, which in turn can negatively impact quality of life – it is clearly important to stay active at all stages of life.
It is evident from all of this extensive research that confronting hearing loss head-on is the best way to ensure a high standard of living, and to promote active engagement in relationships, activities and the community.
How Fidelity Hearing Center Can Help
Our audiologist, Dr. David DeKriek, has over 10 years of experience helping people tackle their hearing loss through the use of hearing aids. Contact our practice to get started on your path to better hearing!