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 aging like reading glasses or gray hair. But a study from Duke-NUS Medical School shows a link between hearing loss and overall health in older adults.

Senior citizens with hearing or vision loss commonly struggle more with cognitive decline, depression, and communication troubles. That’s something you might have already read about. But did you know that hearing loss is also linked to shorter life expectancy?

People with untreated hearing loss, according to this research, may actually have a reduced lifespan. In addition, they discovered that if untreated hearing loss occurred with vision impairments it just about doubles the likelihood that they will have difficulty with tasks necessary for day-to-day living. It’s both a physical problem and a quality of life issue.

While this may sound like bad news, there is a positive spin: several ways that hearing loss can be managed. Even more importantly, getting tested can help expose major health concerns and spark you to pay more attention to staying healthy, which will improve your life expectancy.

Why is Poor Health Linked With Hearing Loss?

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

Researchers at Johns Hopkins note that other problems including greater risk of stroke and heart disease were seen in older people who were suffering hearing loss.

These findings make sense when you know more about the causes of hearing loss. Many instances of tinnitus and hearing loss are tied to heart disease since the blood vessels in the ear canal are impacted by high blood pressure. When you have shrunken blood vessels – which can be due to smoking – the blood in the body has to push harder to keep the ears (and everything else) working which leads to higher blood pressure. High blood pressure in older adults who have hearing loss frequently causes them to hear a whooshing sound in their ears.

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 overtime to decipher conversations and words for one, which saps out the brain’s ability to do anything else. In other situations, 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 separation resulting in anxiety and depression.

How Hearing Loss Can be Managed by Older Adults

There are a few solutions available to deal with hearing loss in older adults, but as the studies show, it is best to deal with these issues early before they affect your overall health.

Hearing aids are one type of treatment that can work wonders in combating your hearing loss. There are small discreet versions of hearing aids that are Bluetooth ready and an assortment of other options are also available. In addition, hearing aid technology has been enhancing basic quality-of-life challenges. For example, they filter out background sound a lot better than older models and can be connected to computers, cell phones, and TV’s to allow for better hearing during the entertainment.

Older adults can also go to a nutritionist or consult with their primary care physician about changes to their diet to help stop additional hearing loss. There are links between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, for example, which can frequently be treated by adding more iron into your diet. Changes to your diet could also positively affect other health issues, resulting in an overall more healthy lifestyle.

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