Is It Possible to Reduce the Risk of Dementia With a Professional Hearing Test

Trees depict dementia through hearing loss by dying and losing leaves.

Hearing and dementia — is there a connection? Not long ago, medical science did link these brain-related conditions and loss of hearing. More than one clinical study determined that even mild hearing loss left untreated increases a person’s chance of developing dementia.

Scientists think there is an organic link between these two somewhat unrelated medical problems. How can loss of hearing increase your risk of dementia, though and how does a hearing exam help?

What is Dementia?

The Mayo Clinic states dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely and reduce socialization skills. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How Hearing Works

The ear mechanisms are very complex and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the waves to send electrical impulses that the brain decodes.

Over time, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. The result is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.

This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not accurate. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:

  • Impaired memory
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Overall diminished health

The odds of developing dementia increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, too. A person with just a minor impairment has double the risk. The more advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. A 2013 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored cognitive skills for more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive problems.

Why a Hearing Exam Matters

Not everyone knows or appreciates how even mild hearing loss affects their health. For most, hearing loss is gradual, too, so they might not even realize there is a problem. The human brain tends to adapt as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.

Getting regular exams provides you and your doctor with the ability to assess your hearing health and see the decline if and when it happens. Some kinds of hearing loss are easy to fix, too, during an exam. The stress on the brain doesn’t change whether the hearing loss is related to aging or a buildup of earwax. The point is that the sooner a person deals with this decline, the less damage there is to the brain. For some, that means getting hearing aids.

Reducing the Risk With Hearing Aids

The current theory is the stress put on the brain by hearing loss is a significant factor in cognitive decline and dementia. Based on that one can conclude that hearing aids reduce the risk. They amplify sound and filter out noise that interferes with it, improving what and how you hear. That means the brain doesn’t have to work as hard to decode audio information and there is less stress.

There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive problems. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

Gradual Hearing Loss: Who Should Really Be Worried

Woman pulling a Jenga block out as a metaphor for how ignoring mild hearing loss can become a larger issue.

Today, people are healthcare consumers not just patients, so they take a special interest in their own health management. Age-related chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease are no longer considered a regular part of aging, in part, because of that shift in thinking. So what about hearing loss? Is mild hearing loss something to worry about like high blood pressure or diabetes? What is mild hearing loss exactly and is it really a problem?

What is Mild Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is one of those things that people tend to ignore until it gets worse, but is that the right attitude? When it comes to your hearing, how bad does it have to get before you stand up and take notice? For that matter, is there anything you can do to prevent some hearing decline? Like most things, the lifestyle you lead has an impact on hearing. It’s a decline that starts slow and builds, too.

Mild hearing loss is defined as a loss of sound recognition 26 to 45 decibelsas measured on a professional hearing assessment tool called an audiogram. For many, this is how age-related hearing loss it begins. An audiogram is a graph that marks a patient’s audible threshold as it relates to certain sounds levels. A person at the beginning stage of hearing decline might experience mumbled-sounding conversations every once in awhile. Almost like the ear becomes blocked occasionally, so the sound is dampened.

Why Mild Hearing Loss Matters?

The mild hearing loss does affect your life even if you don’t know it. During conversations, hard sounds become softer or disappear completely. When your boss tells you there is an office meeting at five o’clock, it sounds like:

There i an oice meeing at ive o’oo

Specific words may seem mumbled, so you begin mumbling “what” back more than you care to admit. That trend will wear on just about everyone’s nerves eventually. Even a slight decline in your hearing can interfere with your fun. Maybe you start misunderstanding what the characters on your favorite TV show say and bet frustrated as you lose track of what going on in the story.

You’ll start looking for ways to fill in the blanks caused by your hearing loss, like putting on headphones or using earbuds. Those quick fixes only add to your problem, though. The drastic increase in sound waves as they enter the ear canal may damage the delicate mechanisms within adding to your hearing loss.

Hearing Loss and Your Sense of Self

As you become more conscious of your hearing problems, you can begin to see yourself as broken or damaged. Many individuals automatically equate hearing loss with aging. Denying it exists is more comfortable than facing the loss and seeking treatment for it like getting hearing aids.

While it is easy for you to pretend there isn’t a problem, it’s more difficult for your friends and family to ignore. Pointing out that you have a hearing issue leads to conflict, especially when it first starts. You want to fight the obvious, but they see the effects of the condition like the volume going up on the TV every night, the misunderstood communications and the potential safety hazards that arise with hearing decline. For you, it’s just a reminder of how the problem changes the way you see yourself.

What to Do About Mild Hearing Loss?

The first step is to see a doctor. Hearing loss is a complex process. Getting a hearing check-up might show the problem isn’t age-related but due to a wax build up or some other minor issue. The hearing decline can also be a symptom of a chronic medical problem like diabetes or high blood pressure. For some, gradual hearing loss is the first sign of these potentially serious medical conditions.

Next, go out and get a professional hearing test done. Even if the doctor is able to resolve your mild hearing loss, a hearing test at this stage serves as a baseline for your future exams. After five years, consider having another test done to detect any further decline. This way, you have a chance to take preventive measures and maybe save your hearing.

So, should you be worried about minor hearing loss? Simply put, yes, any loss of hearing matters in your life. It can indicate a medical problem and, eventually, change the way you feel about yourself. .

How Do You Think HRT Might Impact Normal Hearing

A woman troubled by hearing loss taking hormone replacement therapy pills to help with menopause.

Menopausal women almost always end up wondering if hormone replacement therapy is the right choice for them. For some, the answer will ultimately be yes because their menopausal symptoms are interfering with their quality of life. While taking therapeutic doses of hormones can certainly help relieve some of those unpleasant side effects, it doesn’t come without risks. For years, researchers have been studying the effects replacement hormones have on a woman’s body. One of the more recent research projects found that taking hormones for a long time might even lead to hearing loss.

What exactly is menopause?

It’s a word people hear all their lives but may not actually know what it means. Put simply; menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she stops having menstrual cycles. It’s a natural part of aging but not a pleasant one for many ladies. This cessation of menstruation occurs because the body makes less reproductive hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone.

That drop in hormone levels means a woman can expect some rather unpleasant side effects including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair
  • Dry skin
  • Sleep problems

Medical professionals attempt to counteract these ugly side effects by prescribing HRT or hormone replacement therapy.

What is HRT?

Hormone replacement therapy is the medical approach to controlling uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. There are a variety of formulas used for HRT, but the standard order will include either:

  • Progesterone and estrogen
  • Estrogen alone
  • Testosterone

The plan is to add more essential hormones to the system and relieve the side effects that occur before, during or after menopause.

The Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy

There are some true benefits to hormone replacement therapy, but only when used short-term. For example, it can lower a woman’s risk of osteoporosis and make skin look younger. It�s not all good news when it comes to HRT, though. There are some disputed studies that indicate HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer. Long-term use raises the chance of developing heart disease, as well.

Medical science continues to find connections between hearing loss and hormone replacement therapy. Women typically have a lower risk of hearing loss as they age. In fact, men are twice as likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Of the women that do develop it, how many also undergo hormone replacement therapy?

In 2006, Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., published a study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences that an estimated 10 to 30 percent of women studied have hearing loss that was related to the use of one specific hormone. The study author explained there is a greater risk for women that already have minor hearing loss, as well.

The 2006 study was ignored by some in the medical community, though, because it was so small. A 2017 report published in Menopause looked at existing research provided by the Nurses’ Health Study II to determine if they could discover a more obvious connection between HRT and loss of hearing in women.

The 2017 Study

The scientists involved in this 2017 study collected and reviewed data from 81,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II. At the start of this large-scale analysis project, the participants were between the ages of 27 to 44. The researchers followed them for 22 years while asking women to self-report about their hearing and HRT use.

Of the 81,000 women that took part in the study, around 23 percent indicated some obvious hearing loss as they grew older. They all took therapeutic HRT that included either just estrogen or estrogen plus progestogen. Based on this information, the study authors decided that the use of oral HRT in postmenopausal women for a long period would likely increase their risk of hearing loss.

Does This Mean Women Avoid Hormone Treatments?

That’s a question only a physician or medical practitioner can answer. The latest research does show an increased risk of some hearing loss with HRT use, but, it�s inconclusive since not all women experienced the same thing. Hormone replacement therapy isn’t the right choice for every woman for a number of reasons. Give your doctor all the facts when discussing HRT therapy. If you suspect you already have some hearing loss, you need to mention it. Consider getting a professional hearing test to use as a baseline, too, so you can monitor your hearing as you grow older whether you take HRT or not.

What Beautiful Ocean Animal May One Day Help Fight Hearing Loss

Older woman using shell as hearing aid to hear the surrounding ocean noise with her grandson.

It seems impossible that a tiny creature in the sea could someday be an effective treatment for hearing loss, but one group of researchers says they have all the right stuff. The Center for Hearing and Communication estimates 48 million people in the U.S. have hearing problems and many of them are elderly. Age-related hearing loss affects one in every three people over the age of 65. These are the individuals that will likely benefit from the studies being done on the sea anemones.

What is a Sea Anemone?

Sea anemones are the exotic creatures often seen in ocean-based photography. It’s a group of sea animals that get their name from a flowering plant called the anemone. Similar to the plant, sea anemones have at Medusa-like quality that consists of a columnar trunk surrounded by flowing tentacles.

These are highly predatory creatures that use their tentacles for hunting. They pull the arms in to draw in prey and then expand when it comes time to catch their next meal. The tentacles also help propel them through the water, although, they tend to remain stationary for weeks at a time.

What kind of food do they eat? The sea anemones are not picky eaters. They pull the tentacles out to catch just about any animal that comes within reach and will fit in its mouth.

How the Sea Anemone can Help the Hearing Impaired

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology reports that the sea anemone has tiny hair cells that allow them to sense vibrations in the ocean when catching prey. The core of these hair cells is similar to what humans use to hear.

The inner ear consists of a labyrinth structure filled with these delicate hair cells. The hair cells transduce the vibrations of sound into something the brain can understand. Without them, there is no way for you to comprehend what you hear.

The problem with the very tiny hair cells found in both humans and sea anemones is that they tend to break. These broken hairs are the basis for the hearing loss that occurs as people get older. Decades of listening to people talk, to your favorite TV show and to the local band that plays every weekend will catch up to you. The tiny hair cells break down after years of service and hearing is diminished.

For humans, the damage to these hair cells is impossible to fix. The sea anemone, though, has a built-in system that is the key to their survival. Without the hair cells, they cannot detect prey in the area, so they don’t eat. During reproduction, the sea anemones tear their body in two and that breaks the hair cells. Afterward, they cover themselves with mucus that contains a protein to repairs tissue including the hair cells.

The Sea Anemone Study

University of Louisiana biology professor Glen Watson and his colleagues decided to look closer at the healing process of the sea anemone to see if those same repair proteins might work for different species. The researchers used mice in the study because their ears have similar hair cells — called stereocilia — that enable hearing. They destroyed the stereocilia in the test mice and then treated them with repair protein taken from a starlet sea anemone. The result was significant repair of the stereocilia.

Will That Protein Work on Humans?

The study shows that fixing similar hair cells with this protein does work in other animals, specifically the mice used for this research. The problem is mice are not humans. They have proteins that are related to the ones the sea anemones use for repair. People, on the other hand, do not any that connection. For scientists, the next step is to find a way to harness the repair power of the sea anemone using a natural protein or by harvesting something in nature. If successful, they might be able to repair damage to these hair cells and fix hearing loss in humans.

It’s likely that a cure for age-related hearing loss is still years away. This discovery and research are important, though. It proves that some animals have the ability to repair hair cells and, with more study, it might someday work for humans, too.

Can Hearing Problems End Your Relationship?

Picture of older couple painting

When one person has a hearing problem does that qualify as a relationship killer? Perhaps that hearing loss makes it easier to ignore a spouse or partner. Who’s to say that’s not a good thing? It’s likely that yes is the answer to both of these questions at some level, but it’s also safe to say talking to each other is the key to a good relationship and that’s not easy to do when only one person hears well.

_a_e ou_t __e _a__a_e _lea_e

That might be what a person with poor hearing understands when their spouse asks them to take out the trash. Without good communication, even the best relationships suffer, so there is little doubt that hearing loss matters. On the other hand, getting help for that problem might just stop the fighting for good.

Aging Happily Together

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that about 25 percent of people between the ages of 65 to 74 have some form of hearing loss. If one or more of the individuals involved in the relationship have trouble hearing, their ability to communicate is cut in half and that means tension during those golden years.

The Stress of Hearing Loss

For someone experiencing that gradual loss of hearing, their tension begins to escalate. For one thing, they never know how their loved one will deal with their inability to comprehend a question or follow a story. Tension exists when they try to deny a problem, too. It’s difficult to accept that you have hearing loss, especially when it’s aging-related. As that frustration builds, it’s bound to trigger more fights.

The Miscommunications

With hearing loss, there is an awful lot of guessing going on, too. Did she say 9 or 10? What channel did he want to watch? What kind of drink did she ask for? The more you guess, the more you are wrong. That kind of miscommunication mixed in with a bit of denial can certainly lead to spats over the littlest things. Add to this the husband that practically yells every time he talks or a wife that has the TV up way too high every evening and hearing loss is at the root to most fights.

Depression and Hearing Loss

Along with this burden is the connection between depression and hearing loss, especially in older individuals. The loss of hearing often means a person is getting older. The sudden lack of this one sense feels like the beginning of the end of freedom, right?

That is not a realistic assessment of the problem because people with poor hearing can still do almost anything, but, it is part of the negative thinking that goes on as one adjusts to the change. As the depression gets worse, hearing loss begins to affect relationships with the ones you love like a spouse or adult child.

If you are willing to consider that a hearing problem is potentially bad for a relationship, then getting help is the best way to save it. At some point couples must make a choice; get help from a professional or just continue to fighting. One trip to the doctor is all you need to get the ball rolling.

A hearing exam does more than just improve your relationship, too. That struggle to hear may be a symptom of something serious like heart disease, high blood pressure or even diabetes. It might mean something very treatable is going on like an ear infection or ear wax blockage. How about you use the fighting as an excuse to a spouse or partner to agree to see the doctor. If the answer turns out to be hearing aids, it will be like going on your second honeymoon. A survey conducted by Hear-the-World found that almost 70 percent of couples stated hearing aids improved their relationship.

My Personal Triumph Over Progressive Hearing Loss

Picture of person on mountain with hands in the air

Seeing hearing loss as a disability works like quicksand, keeping you stuck in one place without finding solutions and workarounds in both your personal and business life. Hearing loss is a challenge. It’s important to recognize that up front because once you do, you start moving forward to triumph over it.

In order to beat that challenge and regain control, you must adapt to the changes as they happen whether it’s a constant ringing in your ears, the struggle to fill-in missing words or figuring out how to communicate effectively with someone you love. It’s estimated that over 48 million people in this country have some level of hearing loss, if you are one of them, how can you triumph?

What Causes Hearing Loss?

Learning about your specific problem is where you should start. There are many things that can lead to hearing loss. Often individuals dealing with a slow decrease of their hearing have presbycusis, a condition associated with aging. Presbycusis is the natural decline of the critical nerve cells in the inner ear stemming from years of abuse.

Presbycusis is one of the most common forms, but not the only possible culprit. Disease, for example, often damages the small mechanisms of the ear, rendering them ineffective. Medications can also have an impact on the inner ears. For some, the hearing issue stems from a congenital defect or genetic condition.

Lifestyle plays a key role in your hearing health. The things we do tend to expose us to a lifetime of ear-damaging noise like using headphones when listening to music or playing a favorite online game. Over the top sounds have a significant impact when it comes to gradual hearing loss.

Get Proactive

For those with a slow decrease in hearing, it’s time to figure out what you can do now to stop the progression. Make a note of all the things that may be contributing to the problem like headphones, earbuds and those evenings listening to live music. Put down the headphones and earbuds and get ear protection for your nights out. It’s an easy fix that will make all the difference in your hearing.

Next, make an appointment with your physician for an exam and hearing test. Hearing loss can be a symptom of another illness like high blood pressure or diabetes, too. A check-up will also rule out a fixable problem like earwax blockage or infection. A professional hearing test marks your current hearing status to provide a baseline to measure any future decline.

Managing Tinnitus

For some people experiencing a change, the real battle is trying to deal with the ringing or clicking sound that comes with many forms of hearing loss. Tinnitus is noises that only you hear. They can be irritating enough to affect your quality of life. It presents as:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

To master this challenge, you must find ways to filter out the ringing. White noise machines are effective at night, and hearing aids work well during the day. Some also have luck with meditation that teaches the brain to push away the phantom sounds.

Find Your Personal Triumph Strategy

The truth is no two people experience the same challenges with hearing loss. It’s important to figure out your personal ones and then look for solutions. It’s the little things that make a difference when it comes to enhancing communication skills, for example. Maybe try standing in front of the person you are talking to instead of to the side. A shift in position will focus the sound waves, so they enter the ear canals at almost full force.

Take the time when possible to give your ears a break from the noise. The struggle to hear is exhausting, so isolating yourself in a quiet place for just a few minutes will improve your ability to hear and understand words.

Take advantage of the tools available to you, too. In other words, look at the assistive technology products on the market like hearing aids and home safety devices such as smoke detectors that blink the lights and shake the bed.

The best tool at your disposal, though, is your ability to communicate with others even as you struggle to hear what they say to you. Talk to the people in your life and tell them what is going on. The most effective way to triumph over a hearing loss is to see it for what it is — a challenge and then develop a strategy to meet it head-on.

Why the Fight To Hear Words Clearly At Parties?

man

It’s a very basic question. You spend some adult time partying with friends and family, but something is off. You are standing in a space filled with adults like yourself, yet, it almost seems like you are on an island. Why? The biggest problem is you’re only hearing about every third word of the conversation. If the person you’re with has a high-pitched voice, you pick up even less. It seems unlikely that everyone else is mumbling, right? What are the odds?

Very small, unfortunately, this isn’t going to turn out to be a party full of mumblers. The more likely cause of the problem is your hearing. Let’s face it, it isn’t what it used to be and that’s getting in the way of your party fun. It’s also likely that this problem has been around awhile. Maybe you complain about that same mumble while at the local store or when watching TV.

Age-related hearing loss is typically first noticed in noisy environments like your adult party. Everyone’s talking at once and the music is playing, so you’re struggling. The first step is to learn more about age-related hearing loss and what you can do about, so next party with won’t feel like a loner.

What is Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Age-related hearing loss, known medically as presbycusis, is a condition associated with individuals between the 65 and 74, but it actually begins at a younger age. The cause is the natural wear down of the nerve cells in the ears. These tiny components of the inner ear send electrical impulses to be translated by the brain into the sound you hear.

Sound enters the ear canal in waves and travels to the inner ear for processing. It’s a process that puts stress on the tiny cells there, so in about 50 or 60 years, they start to wear down. Lifestyle choices do factor in, though, so individuals who spend their life exposed to loud noises have more hearing loss problems as they age. Maybe you drove for the last 20 years with the windows down and the radio up or have been wearing earbuds to listen to music since they first hit the market.

It’s these little things that put stress on the tiny hair cells of the inner ear. After years of dedicated service, they can no longer function and that makes hearing more difficult. Age-related hearing loss is a progressive condition, as well, meaning it starts small and grows worse over time. By age 65, most people start to notice a change, but it starts earlier in life.

Can You Slow the Process?

The trauma of age-related hearing loss is permanent. Once these cells suffer damage, there is no fix. The best course of action is to take good care of your ears and slow the process down. The right proactive steps may even save some of your hearing. If you are frequently exposed to loud noises, either at home or on the job, take steps to protect your ears. Lose the headphones and earbuds, for example.

Look for ear protection when there is noise you can’t avoid like the lawnmower or equipment on the job. It’s what you do now that will matter the most later on, so treat your ears like delicate instruments because that’s exactly what they are — some of the most delicate in the human body.

What About the Party?

There are things you can do to improve your hearing at a party, too. Start by learning to face the people you’re talking to; it will improve your chances of hearing what they say. Try not to be shy about your hearing loss, either. The more open and honest you are with your friends, the better. Explain that you are having trouble understanding what they say. That one piece of information will get them to slow down when talking and turn up the volume a bit, so you can hear.

The best plan of attack, though, is to get your hearing checked. If you can’t hear at a party, then what else are you missing? Getting a check-up means you are doing something about it and that’s good. If the answer is an age-related hearing condition, a hearing test tells you what you everything you need to know and whether hearing aids might turn you into the life of the party once again.

Untreated Hearing Loss: Let Us Tell You the 7 Hidden Hazards

“screaming

Do you ever wonder what your hearing loss will cost you? It’s easy to think a decline in hearing is normal as a person grows older, so why not just ignore it? There is probably no reason to worry about it, right? That’s all assuming you even know you have hearing loss in the first place.

It’s common to think that a little hearing loss won’t hurt. Researchers are just now starting to understand the problems that can come with hearing decline, especially how it might affect the brain. New technology is opening up some surprising data, too. Okay, how big of a problem is that lack of hearing? Here are seven hidden risks that come with it if you choose to ignore the problem.

#1. What are You Missing?

Let’s begin with a basic concern. What are you are not hearing these days? Did your grandchild just say he loves you? How many of those have you missed? How does that make him feel when you don’t hear him say it?

Lack of hearing can isolate you in a way that you might not understand. Everyone likes a little privacy now and then, but there is a difference between isolation and wanting some alone time. You are missing out on hearing the birds sing in the morning. You don’t hear the rainfall or the wind whistle.

Missing out on the important sounds is something that changes your life at every level. It gets in the way of your ability to socialize with others, develop friendships and do your job well. It also makes that precious little grandson feel ignored when he says she loves you.

#2 Social Decline

It’s possible that your hearing loss is more recognizable that you want to think, too. Struggling to hear and that need to focus on what is being said during casual conversation can cause you to withdraw from social situations. Hearing loss will destroy self-confidence and that has an impact, as well. If you find yourself turning down invitations, stop for a minute to evaluate your why. Do you really want to stay home and watch TV or is there something else going on?

#3 Mental Decline

Just recently, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered that even mild hearing loss can increase an individual’s risk of dementia. In a study conducted by Frank Lin, M.D., PhD., researchers followed 639 people for 12 years. Those with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to experience cognitive problems and with moderate hearing loss, the risk tripled. The study participants with serious impairment left untreated were five times more likely to develop conditions like dementia.

The researchers also found that hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline. The volunteers that developed age-related hearing loss over the 12 years of the study showed signs of mental decline up to 40 percent faster than the recipients with normal hearing.

#4 Fatigue

The brain is responsible for taking the sound that enters the ears and translating it into something you can understand. When you can’t quite make out every word, it will attempt to fill the void and that takes energy. That constant need to compensate for your hearing loss is one of the reasons for the increased risk of dementia. It can also leave you feeling mentally exhausted after a meeting or night out with friends.

#5 Poor Work Performance

Your hearing is one of your most important assets when it comes to working. When that asset is compromised, though, it can affect your ability to earn. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found hearing loss had a financial impact. They surveyed 40,000 households to discover that individuals with some hearing loss made up to 12,000 dollars less annually. The culprit is poor communication skills that lead to declined productivity and work-related errors.

#7 Depression

All these other risks combined will begin to impact you on a mental level, according to the National Council on the Aging. They found a connection between untreated hearing loss and depression in older people. Poor hearing is common as a person ages. In the U.S., it affects more than nine million people over the age of 65. Of those that don’t get hearing aids, around 30 people report some level depression.

You don’t have to live with hearing loss. It’s a choice for most people and one that does come with significant hidden risks.

3 Principle Hearing Exercises Anyone Might Do Alone or With a Friend

artwork of a man fighting against noise of music from headphones

#1 Learn to Filter Noise at Home

When you workout your ears, are you working out your mind too? Sound filtering is the phrase we use when talking about how focusing on something essential and filtering out the sound distractions in the room. Exercising this skill keeps it sharp and that means you are able to understand a conversation even in a noisy space.

You can start your practice with music from a couple of different devices – maybe use the TV and your laptop. Now, ask a friend to sit with you and talk. Take time to focus on the conversation while ignoring the music playing around you from the various devices. Work this exercise in a room where you can change the environmental distractions easily like adjusting the volume.

How to do the Exercise

It’s a challenge for someone with hearing loss to listen to the conversation when there is a lot of distracting noise. That’s a problem most people have but one that is significant with serious hearing loss. Consider how a noise as simple as the heater or AC unit coming on could make hard to understand words unless you learn to keep your mind focused and your ears sharp with hearing exercises.

Begin your practice in a comfortable space. You’ll want to avoid fidgeting so you can focus. When possible, find a quiet room for this exercise. It will be less frustrating if you have control over the distracting sounds.

Start a conversation and turn one device on low. Are you both still using your normal speaking voices? Can you hear the other person? If you answered yes to both questions, then keep moving on, if not, turn the volume down on the device until you can comfortably hear and speak with the other person.

After you’ve gotten used to filtering out one music source, try adding in the second one. To make it more of a challenge, try adjusting the volume or adding on even more devices. The nice part of this exercise is both you and your friend are doing something good for your ears and minds!

#2 Identify and Locate Sounds

Did you hear that? It’s the kind of question everyone asks regardless of hearing loss. The good news is by practicing how to locate a sound and identifying what’s making it is a proven way to strengthen your hearing.

Similar to the previous exercise, you won’t need a lot of fancy tools or equipment. It’s also a great excuse to get outdoors regardless of if you’re in the country or a major city. The idea is to surround yourself with varied sounds. The more diverse the environment the better!

How to do the Exercise

This simple exercise is great for your mental health because it’s actually working to strengthen the connections and pathways your brain uses to interpret information from your ears. In other words, it’s going to fine tune your mind so you can do more with less effort!

Look for a space that is bustling but comfortable. Maybe use the local shopping mall or food court. Now, close your eyes and focus on one single sound around you. Let your mind help you determine where that sound is coming from and what’s making it. Is it someone’s shoes clicking? Maybe it’s a child clapping her hands? If you can’t quite identify it try to figure out how big the object is that’s making the sound and how it makes you feel, or even what type of material might be used to create it. All of these small puzzle pieces together will help you determine what the noise is and strengthen your hearing at the same time.

#3 Play Brain Games

Not every exercise has to be a major hearing challenge. You can work all of your senses, including your hearing, by strengthening your mind. The brain serves as your translator, so you can improve sound recognition by focusing on its overall functioning. A doctor or hearing professional can provide you with specific games to improve your mental agility, but there are some you can do on your own.

How to do the Exercise

There are quite a few games that work for one or more players. For example, any kind of logic or strategy game will help and you can play it on your tablet, on your table, or in the newspaper.

Speaking of print publications, crossword puzzles and number games like Sudoku are powerful mind puzzles for someone who wants to flex their mental muscles on their own. Even tasks like crocheting will work your mind and keep it strong. Memory games are especially effective. They can be as basic as a card game or as exciting as a shell game. If those don’t appeal to you, keep looking because there are much more out there. For example, remember the Rubik’s cube? It can provide hours of pattern recognition and problem-solving practice.

Of course, don’t forget the social brain games such as playing chess, checkers, or scrabble with friends and family. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you’re using your noggin!

What Kinds of Support Might You Not Be Hearing

Picture of an extended hand

Is your hearing loss leaving you feeling just a little less than? Less than intelligent, perhaps, because you must fight to stay involved in every conversation. How about a little alone? It probably seems like your friends and family are avoiding you. Maybe hearing loss has left you devoid of energy. Just the effort to hear and comprehend every sound is exhausting.

Depression is a natural side effect of hearing loss, especially when it is associated with aging, because the decline is gradual and easy to miss. In between the various moods you experience are periods of enhanced stress because you don’t really understand what’s happening to you. If all this sounds a bit like your life, then you could probably use a pick-me-up. How about a compliment?

A 2012 study published by the National Institutes of Natural Science discovered that people improve when someone offers them a compliment. The ability to give and receive compliments provides a number of health benefits like a stronger immune system and better productivity, too. Of course, if you have hearing loss, you are not enjoying those compliments like you used to or the health perks that come with them. What kinds of compliments do you think you might be missing?

The Ones That Offer Support

When is the last time a person you cared about said they believe in you? With hearing impairment, they might be doing just that and you wouldn’t know. That feeling of accomplishment that comes with this compliment is difficult to muster regularly without the support from your friends and family. Maybe you feel a sense of power when you finish a project or get in a workout, but it’s fleeting sensation without reinforcement. As a society, we rely heavily on what the people in our lives think of the things we do.

If you have presbycusis, the technical name for hearing loss that occurs with age, you may not hear your grandchild say she believes and loves you or that special person in your life’s message of support. This type of hearing problem makes high tones like the female voice hard to comprehend.

You might, on the other hand, easily pick out the sound of a male voice, but it often comes off as mumbled. The deep tones sound more like gruff and less like supportive, because you miss a word here and there allowing your brain to fill in the voids.

Although presbycusis is associated with aging, it really is a consequence of things people do throughout their lives like wearing headphones or going to concerts each week. Even playing the radio loud as you drive has a long-term effect. These actions take a cumulative toll, which is why hearing experts warn you to start protecting your ears early in life.

Nature’s Own Complements

The things that make you feel the best are not necessarily man-made. Mother Nature has her own way of soothing the soul with sound. How about the birds singing in the morning or the wind blowing through the trees? Maybe you enjoy listening to the rainfall? Since age-related hearing loss tends to be gradual, so you might not even know you are missing these things, well, until you put on your first set of hearing aids and all those sounds come back.

The Benefit of Feeling Safe Compliments Your Life

Losing your hearing is about more than just how you feel, though. There is a safety concern to consider when you lived your whole life relying on your ears as a warning system. They tell you when there is a car coming, for example. If you miss the sound of the car itself, there is the backup of another person yelling the warning at you. Those are all potentially gone when you live with untreated hearing loss.

The Environmental Compliments

You’re missing out on the little things around the house, too. How about the signal the dryer rings out when the cycle is complete? All those wrinkled clothes are enough to make anyone depressed.

There are more serious concerns at home, too, like the smoke alarm. Traditional ones emit a high-pitch sound that a person with age-related hearing might not comprehend. They make special types of smoke and carbon monoxide warning systems with low-frequency tones just for that reason along with other types of alarms like ones that flash the lights or shake the bed. You won’t have these systems in place, though, unless you recognize your hearing impairment.

Getting Back on the Compliment Track

Now that you know what you are missing, what can you do about it? There is more at stake here than just the occasional compliment to make you feel good. Hearing loss has a significant impact on your quality of life and safety. If you are noticing fewer compliments coming your way, maybe it’s time to make an appointment for a hearing exam and professional hearing test.