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

Much like graying hair and reading glasses, hearing loss is simply 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 hearing loss and overall health in older adults.

Senior citizens with hearing or vision loss commonly struggle more with depression, cognitive decline, and communication troubles. That’s something you might already have read about. But one thing you may not recognize is that life expectancy can also be influenced by hearing loss.

People with untreated hearing loss, according to this study, might actually have a reduced lifespan. And, the possibility that they will have a hard time carrying out activities necessary for everyday life nearly doubles if the individual has both hearing and vision impairment. It’s an issue that is both a physical and a quality of life issue.

This might sound bad but there’s a positive: there’s a variety of ways that hearing loss can be managed. Even more importantly, having a hearing exam can help expose major health concerns and inspire you to pay more attention to staying healthy, which will increase your life expectancy.

Why is Poor Health Connected With Hearing Loss?

While the research is compelling, cause and effect are nonetheless uncertain.

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

These findings make sense when you understand more about the causes of hearing loss. Many instances of tinnitus and hearing loss are tied to heart disease since high blood pressure impacts the blood vessels in the ear canal. When you have shrunken blood vessels – which can be a consequence of smoking – the body has to work harder to squeeze the blood through which results in high blood pressure. Older adults who have heart conditions and hearing loss often experience a whooshing noise in their ears, which is usually caused by high blood pressure.

Hearing loss has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other forms of cognitive decline. There are several reasons for the two to be linked according to health care professionals and hearing experts: the brain needs to work overtime to understand conversations and words for one, which allows less mental capacity to actually process the words or do anything else. In other situations, difficulty communicating causes people with hearing loss to socialize less. There can be an extreme impact on a person’s mental health from social separation leading to anxiety and depression.

How Older Adults Can Treat Hearing Loss

Older adults have a few choices for managing hearing loss, but as the studies demonstrate, the smartest thing to do is deal with the problem as soon as possible before it has more extreme consequences.

Hearing aids are one form of treatment that can work wonders in dealing with your hearing loss. There are several different models of hearing aids available, including small, subtle models that are Bluetooth ready. What’s more, hearing aid technology has been maximizing basic quality-of-life challenges. For instance, they filter out background sound much better than older versions and can be connected to cell phones, TVs, and computers to allow for better hearing during the entertainment.

Older adults can also visit a nutritionist or contact their primary care physician about changes to their diet to help stop further hearing loss. There are links between iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, for instance, which can frequently be treated by increasing the iron content in your diet. A better diet can help your other medical issues and help you have better total health.

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