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Woman improving her life expectancy by wearing hearing aids and working out is outside on a pier.

Most people just accept hearing loss as a part of growing old like reading glasses or gray hair. But a study from Duke-NUS Medical School shows a link between overall health and hearing loss.

Communication problems, depression, and cognitive decline have a higher occurrence in older people with vision or hearing loss. You might have already read about that. But one thing you may not recognize is that life expectancy can also be influenced by hearing loss.

This study suggests that people with untreated hearing loss might enjoy “fewer years of life”. And, the possibility that they will have a hard time undertaking tasks necessary for everyday life nearly doubles if the individual has both hearing and vision impairment. It’s both a physical problem and a quality of life problem.

While this might sound like sad news, there is a positive spin: there’s a variety of ways that hearing loss can be managed. Even more significantly, getting tested can help uncover serious health problems and inspire you to take better care of yourself, which will increase your life expectancy.

Why is Poor Health Connected With Hearing Loss?

Research certainly shows a connection but the accurate cause and effect isn’t well understood.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins note that other issues such as greater risk of stroke and heart disease were observed in older individuals who had hearing loss.

When you understand what the causes of hearing loss are, these results make more sense. Many cases of hearing loss and tinnitus are tied to heart disease since the blood vessels in the ear canal are affected by high blood pressure. When you have shrunken blood vessels – which can be brought on by smoking – the blood in the body needs to push harder to keep the ears (and everything else) functioning which brings about higher blood pressure. Older adults with heart conditions and hearing loss often experience a whooshing sound in their ears, which can be caused by high blood pressure.

Hearing loss has also been connected to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other types of cognitive decline. There are a number of reasons for the two to be connected according to health professionals and hearing specialists: the brain has to work harder to understand conversations and words for one, which taps out the brain’s ability to do anything else. In other scenarios, difficulty communicating causes people with hearing loss to socialize less. This social isolation causes depression and anxiety, which can have a severe impact on a person’s mental health.

How Hearing Loss Can be Treated by Older Adults

There are several solutions available to manage hearing loss in older adults, but as the studies reveal, the best thing to do is address the problem as soon as you can before it has more severe consequences.

Hearing aids are one form of treatment that can work wonders in fighting your hearing loss. There are small discreet models of hearing aids that are Bluetooth ready and a variety of other options are also available. Also, basic quality of life has been improving as a result of hearing aid technology. For example, they enable you to hear better during your entertainment by allowing you to connect to your phone, computer, or TV and they filter out background sound better than older models.

Older adults can also visit a nutritionist or contact their physician about changes to their diet to help prevent additional hearing loss. There are links between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, for example, which can often be treated by increasing the iron content in your diet. Changes to your diet could also positively affect other health conditions, resulting in an overall more healthy lifestyle.

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