Hearing loss is connected to much more than just your ability to enjoy the sounding world and to communicate. You might be surprised at how many dimensions of life and health are connected to hearing. In some cases, it appears that hearing loss can cause other health problems. For instance, those who have untreated hearing loss are more likely to have accidental injuries and falls. These accidents may be due, in part, to limited ability to use hearing ability for location in space. Similarly, those who have untreated hearing loss are also more likely to return to the hospital for follow-up visits. This statistical regularity may have to do with communication problems at the first visit that led to misdiagnosis. In addition to these cases of hearing loss causing other health issues, other cases demonstrate that an underlying cause is contributing both to hearing loss and those other issues at the same time. Take, for instance, the connection between hearing loss and cardiovascular disease. Although it is unlikely that hearing loss is directly contributing to cardiovascular disease, it is more likely that one underlying condition is causing both to falter, potentially through reduced blood flow through the body. A recent study has unearthed some statistical relationships that require further investigation. In this study, hearing loss was connected to impaired lower extremity function, frailty syndrome, and inability to perform instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). Let’s take a closer look at the connections between these conditions, including some interpretation of what might relate them with one another in individual lives.
In a recent study of 1,644 people living in Madrid aged 65 and older, a comparative study looked at the connections between hearing loss and many different measures of health. Some of the relationships became clear in the data, prompting researchers to explore further. Specifically, they discovered that hearing loss was connected with poor lower extremity functioning. Some speculate that this relationship might have to do with a depleted supply of oxygen in both the ears and the lower appendages, perhaps linked to an even more serious underlying problem. In the case of frailty syndrome and an inability to perform instrumental activities of daily living, it is possible that impaired hearing ability sets off a chain reaction of negative health effects and lack of wellbeing. Let’s take a closer look at the connection between hearing loss and other aspects of health.
Hearing loss tends to reduce communication ability. This limitation can set off a domino rally of other health issues, including physical, mental, and cognitive wellbeing. In the case of frailty syndrome and an inability to perform instrumental activities of daily living, communication problems can indeed get in the way of life’s basic tasks. We rely on verbal communication for many of these necessary activities, including running errands and getting resources and basic necessities. If you think back to the last time you got groceries or went to pick up a prescription, you might have gone through the process with very little communication. However, you also might recall some encounters with strangers or staff at these locations who expected you to understand what they were saying and to reply in turn. When a person knows that these conversations will be difficult or awkward, it is possible to start to avoid these encounters altogether. Social isolation is related to not only poor mental health but also physical limitations due to a lack of mobility.
If you know someone who has untreated hearing loss, this finding can help you encourage a hearing test. Knowing that hearing loss can contribute to negative health outcomes in other domains might be enough to prompt your friend or loved one to get a hearing test and to pursue treatment. Getting the assistance that is needed can be enough to improve communication and to make it possible to interact with others in a way that feels comfortable once again. Not only can communication improve, but the chain reaction of negative health effects can be avoided, as well. Why not take this opportunity to encourage your friend or loved one to get a hearing test?