From strengthening relationships to enhancing safety, the impact of
hearing aids can be far-reaching
Acknowledging the deterioration of your hearing is a tough thing to grapple with. For some, it conjures feelings of shame and embarrassment – as if it’s a sign of weakness or ageing. These emotions are natural, of course, but completely unfounded. In fact, hearing loss is an oft-misunderstood condition, despite its prevalence.
These days, there’s no need to accept the condition as a permanent sentence. Advances in technology and scientific understanding of the human ear have culminated in hearing devices that have completely transformed the lives of sufferers. A 2007 study published in medical journal Hippokratia, found that 80% of participants with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss reported “significant benefit[s] from hearing aid use.” Their findings demonstrated a clear trend between patients with bilateral hearing loss who use binaural hearing aids and a higher quality of life.
So, how can a small, in-ear device change a person’s life for the better? Here are six of the most significant ways:
1. Strengthens relationships
One of the most common by-products of hearing loss is social isolation. Without the ability to communicate freely and easily, affected people can begin to feel detached from their loved ones. It may start small, like missing parts of a conversation or struggling to chat on the phone. But over time, these feelings of frustration can cause sufferers to withdraw from social interaction and snowball into significant mental health problems like depression.
Hearing aids work to fill these crucial gaps in communication, facilitating stronger relationships between those with hearing impairment and the people around them.
2. Improves cognitive function
Research into the impact of hearing loss on brain function is ongoing, but studies have demonstrated an undeniable correlation. In 2017, a collection of cohort studies into hearing loss was analysed, whereby participants with either mild cognitive impairment or alzheimers were examined by scientists. This meta-analysis of over 15,000 patients found that hearing impairment was associated with a greater risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia. A number of factors are thought to impact the onset of these conditions in those with hearing loss, but three of the most prevalent theories include: brain cell shrinkage from lack of stimulation, social isolation leading to less brain stimuli and heavy cognitive load due to a constant strain to understand speech and sound.
The use of hearing aids essentially addresses all of these potential causes of mental impairment; they stimulate your mind, enable interaction with others and take some of the cognitive strain off your brain.
3. Bolsters financial independence
The impacts of hearing loss on a person’s life can be far-reaching. A key area which is commonly overlooked is earning potential. The inability to hear well and communicate effectively can lead individuals to retire prematurely, miss out on career growth opportunities, have their income restricted or even become excluded from the workforce entirely. A 2006 report by Access Economics supports this conclusion; in Australia, the rate of employment for those with hearing loss was 11% lower than the general population.
The good news? Many with hearing difficulties can be aided by hearing devices, thereby allowing them to participate in the workforce and gain – or retain – financial independence.
4. Enhances safety and wellbeing
Hearing, much like health in general, is incredibly easy to take for granted. For most people, it’s not until they begin to experience difficulties that they typically grasp how important the sense is in their daily life. Without the ability to hear everyday hazards, from speeding cars to fire alarms, your personal safety could be at risk. You’re also far less likely to be able to reliably identify where danger is coming from.
While hearing aids aren’t miracle devices, they can typically enhance a wearer’s hearing to the point of perceiving danger, therefore improving their personal safety.
5. Contributes to ongoing physical health
In some instances, such as exposure to loud sounds, hearing impairment is simply a by-product of circumstances. But in many cases, it’s either a signal of other morbidities – such as diabetes – or the cause of further complications like depression, anxiety and heart disease. So, whether minor or severe, a loss of hearing should never be ignored.
6. Complements lifestyle choices
Do the words ‘hearing aid’ trigger images of your grandparent’s bulky ear piece that used to emit high-pitched feedback at random intervals? Thankfully, technology has come a long way over the last several decades. Just like televisions keep getting clearer and phones become smarter, hearing aids have evolved with the times, too.
Modern hearing aids are sleek and practical, enabling wearers to live active lives. Some are practically invisible, sitting right inside the ear like an earbud. The only thing that changes when you invest in your aural health is your ability to hear.