Memory loss often takes center stage when it comes to concerns about our health, especially as we age. However, there are important reasons why we should also focus on our hearing.
Hearing is a critical aspect of our daily lives; especially in building and sustaining relationships. However, hearing loss doesn't just disrupt communication, it is potentially impacting cognition and memory. Recent research is discovering a link between cognition and hearing loss. Often when someone initially thinks they have a memory problem, it may actually be a hearing problem instead.
"Hearing loss is a significant factor to wellness," said Karen Van Doorne, a doctor of audiology and owner of Van Doorne Hearing Care in Holland, Michigan. "There is much more in play than just your hearing. It's related to so many other aspects of your health. Hearing care is health care."
A study from the American Medical Association Journal, "JAMA Internal Medicine," presents evidence that hearing loss is linked to memory problems. John Hopkins researchers discovered a faster decline in thinking skills during a six-year period among people with hearing loss than among those without it.
The study revealed it could take an older person with hearing loss less than eight years to develop cognitive impairment, compared with 11 years for those with healthy hearing. Researchers speculate that the reason for this disparity is due to the fact that additional energy required by hearing impaired patients to process sound is being diverted from other areas such as memory and cognition.
While the exact link between the two is still being studied, getting your hearing checked is imperative regardless of the toll it may take on your memory, says Van Doorne. One-third of adults aged 65 experiences some degree of hearing loss; that number decreases to half by the age of 75. Routine hearing exams should be implemented for all adults as soon as they turn 60.
While age-related hearing loss is a real concern, plenty of other factors contribute to impaired hearing. Patients of all ages can, and do, develop hearing loss—especially if they suffer from a condition that increases their risk. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease hypertension, genetics and noise exposure have all been linked to hearing loss, prompting Van Doorne to remark, "It's not an age issue—it's a health issue." Her patients range in age from 5 to 99, and she attributes their hearing problems on "a variety of reasons."
Hearing loss typically develops gradually, making it difficult for many to realize they have a problem. Signs to look for include: Watching television at a level others find too loud, thinking people are mumbling, frequently and having trouble understanding speech. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to consult an audiologist.
Van Doorne Hearing Care tackles hearing problems with custom and integrative solutions. As with other health conditions everybody's symptoms are unique, so a one-size-fits-all solution typically isn't applicable.