Of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, only one in five actually seeks treatment for the condition. Untreated hearing loss affects more than just your hearing; it can have a devastating effect on your emotional wellbeing, cognitive health and physical safety. Fortunately, studies have found that hearing aids can delay, prevent and even reverse these effects, as well as improve quality of life.
Hearing Aids Improve Your Balance
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that adults with hearing loss perform better on balance tests when they are wearing their hearing aids compared to when they’re not.
“We wanted to see if we could detect an improvement even in people who did very well on the foam test,” explained senior author Timothy Hullar, M.D. “And we found, indeed, their balance improved during the harder test with their hearing aids on … Many of my patients say their balance is better when they’re wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants.”
Hearing Aids Improve Awareness
Hearing is an important sense when it comes to staying aware of your environment and preventing accidents. Hearing aids improve the ability to hear warning sounds such as car horns, sirens and pets. In addition to hearing alert sounds, hearing aids can help with sound localization and recognizing which direction a sound is coming from – such as an oncoming vehicle. Treating hearing loss is important for being cognizant of your surroundings.
Hearing Aids Preserve Cognitive Abilities
Studies by Johns Hopkins show that untreated hearing loss is closely related to reduced cognitive abilities.
“Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain,” explained senior author Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. “Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.”
A new study about the effects of hearing aids is still in the planning stages, but Lin is hopeful. “What we do know is that there’s no downside to using hearing aids. They help most people who try them. And in those people, they can make all the difference in the world—allowing people to reengage with friends and family and to be more involved again.”