By Patricia Sarmiento
A few years ago, my dad began experiencing hearing loss. He worked in loud factories all his life. And while in recent years he began wearing ear protection, I think there were many days on the job where he didn’t use any. As he grew older, all that time without ear protection took its toll.
Prior to his experiences with hearing loss, I must admit that I didn’t know much about it. As he began going through the necessary steps, like getting fitted for hearing aids, I began to look into how hearing loss can affect our overall health. Here’s what I found:
Falls: This was my first area of concern when my dad’s hearing loss was diagnosed. I knew that our ears play an important role in our balance. However, I was surprised to see how significantly one’s chances of falling increased with their hearing loss. WhittierHearing.com cites a study that found that even just mild hearing loss meant you were “three times more likely to have a history of falling.” Of course, the older someone is the more dangerous these falls can be. My dad was lucky in that his hearing loss didn’t ever seem to affect him in this way. But if you have a loved one who has fallen or is experiencing balance issues, get their hearing checked!
Depression. We actually began suspecting that my dad was experiencing hearing loss long before he began seeking treatment for it. I think he was simply too proud to admit that he was having problems. We had to repeat ourselves to him and sometimes at family gatherings he would withdraw altogether. It was when he stopped going to his weekly Men’s Breakfast at our church that we knew something was going on.
While my dad received treatment before his hearing loss really began to take a toll on his mental health, I can definitely see how it could lead to depression. People experiencing hearing loss may experience poorer quality of life, isolation and reduced social activity.
Dementia. Through my research, I found out that in older adults there is a connection between hearing loss and dementia and Alzheimer’s. Those with mild hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing. The risk increases three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for those with severe impairment. It isn’t yet clear what causes the connection, but the article says some researchers believe it may result from those with hearing loss straining “to decode sounds,” which may take its toll on the brain.
So, what can you do to protect your hearing? I’d like to suggest going for a swim. Here’s why: This guide on swimming and heart health notes what an excellent cardiovascular and full body workout swimming can be. That’s important because there have been many studies showing a connection between heart health and hearing. Yet another reason to be sure you’re getting plenty of exercise!
Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their Shih Tzu in Maryland.