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

Just like reading glasses and graying hair, hearing loss is just one of those things that most people accept as a part of the aging process. But a study from Duke-NUS Medical School reveals a connection between overall health and hearing loss.

Senior citizens with hearing or vision loss commonly struggle more with depression, cognitive decline, and communication problems. You may already have read about that. But one thing you may not be aware of is that life expectancy can also be influenced by hearing loss.

This study suggests that those with neglected hearing loss may enjoy “fewer years of life”. And, the likelihood that they will have difficulty performing tasks needed for daily life just about doubles if the person has both hearing and vision impairment. It’s both a physical issue and a quality of life issue.

This may sound bad but there’s a positive: several ways that hearing loss can be addressed. Even more significantly, getting tested can help reveal major health issues and inspire you to pay more attention to staying healthy, which will increase your life expectancy.

Why is Hearing Loss Connected With Inferior Health?

While the research is persuasive, cause and effect are still uncertain.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins note that older adults with hearing loss had a tendency to have other problems, {likesuch as} high rates of smoking, increased heart disease, and stroke.

These results make sense when you know more about the causes of hearing loss. Countless cases of hearing loss and tinnitus are linked to heart disease since high blood pressure affects the blood vessels in the ear canal. When the blood vessels are shrunken – which can be due to smoking – the body’s blood needs to push harder to keep the ears (and everything else) functioning which leads to higher blood pressure. Older adults with heart conditions and hearing loss commonly experience a whooshing sound in their ears, which can be caused by high blood pressure.

Hearing loss has also been linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other types of cognitive decline. There are several reasons for the two to be connected according to health care professionals and hearing experts: for starters, the brain has to work overtime to distinguish words in a conversation, which allows less mental ability to actually process the words or do anything else. In other scenarios, difficulty communicating causes people who suffer from hearing loss to be less social. There can be a serious affect on a person’s mental health from social isolation leading to depression and anxiety.

How Older Adults Can Manage Hearing Loss

Older adults have a number of choices for treating hearing loss, but as is revealed by research, the smartest thing to do is deal with the problem as soon as you can before it has more extreme consequences.

Hearing aids are one type of treatment that can be very effective in dealing with your hearing loss. There are several different styles of hearing aids available, including small, subtle models that connect with Bluetooth technology. What’s more, hearing aid technology has been enhancing basic quality-of-life challenges. For instance, 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 go to a nutritionist or consult with their primary care physician about changes to their diet to help counter 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. An improved diet can help your other medical issues and help you have better general health.

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