December brings with it cold weather, holiday celebrations, and sometimes, snow. The holiday celebrations are perhaps the most exciting, whether you and yours celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or even just New Year’s. These holidays give us an opportunity to get together, share the stories from our year, and in many cases, exchange gifts.
As you tackle your holiday shopping this year, our hearing aid specialists at Hearing Unlimited want you to remember to keep something else in mind—the Gift of Hearing! Throughout December, we take applications from friends and family that tell us why their loved one with hearing loss should be the recipient of a free set of state-of-the-art hearing aids and the Gift of Hearing. By utilizing hearing aids, a person with hearing loss can:
The ability to hear can be vital in our ability to communicate with others. When a person experiences hearing loss, they can also experience difficulty in understanding other people, especially over the phone or in noisy environments. Often, those with hearing loss ask others to repeat themselves frequently or pretend to understand when they do not, causing incorrect responses or ineffective communication.
These difficulties can ultimately affect a person’s mental health. A person suffering from hearing loss may feel like a bother or a burden, or may simply be frustrated with attempts to communicate, and may withdraw and isolate themselves instead of participating in social situations. This isolation can cause feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. In fact, over 11% of people with hearing loss report suffering from moderate to severe depression(opens in a new tab).
Tinnitus, a condition that causes a person to hear noises no one else can hear (most commonly a high-pitched ringing), is also connected to hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs in our inner ears bend and break, and tinnitus occurs when these bent and broken hairs send incorrect signals to our brains, causing us to hear sounds that aren’t actually happening. This sound can prevent sleep, causing mental health issues, and can make it even more difficult to hear others, causing further communication issues. Luckily, hearing aids for tinnitus can reduce its effects!
In fact, the use of hearing aids can help in all of these areas. By using hearing aids, a person with hearing loss can communicate more effectively, allowing them to be more present and involved in conversations. This not only helps improve their relationships but also helps them avoid isolation and the depression that comes with it.
Hearing loss can also cause cognitive impairment. For instance, those with hearing loss often experience something called “listening fatigue” wherein the brain has to allocate more cognitive power to listening and processing sounds, leaving less cognitive power for other tasks. As the name suggests, this increase in the use of cognitive power to listen can also cause a person to feel fatigued or exhausted.
Untreated hearing loss also seems to be connected to dementia. Researchers have not been able to determine exactly why this is, but have reported that an older person’s risk of developing dementia doubles with mild hearing loss(opens in a new tab). If the person has severe hearing loss, their risk is 5 times higher. Some audiologists believe that hearing loss causes dementia, that dementia causes hearing loss, or that both are the result of some other common cause, but at this moment, the exact connection is unclear.
Hearing aids, however, allow our brains to spend fewer cognitive resources on hearing and processing sounds, helping with brain health. In fact, current research also shows that people with hearing loss who also use hearing aids reduce their cognitive decline and risk of developing dementia!
We all know that our ears help us hear, but they also have a lesser-known but equally important responsibility of keeping us balanced. Within our inner ears, we have a set of structures that use fluid and tiny hairs to tell our brain how we’re oriented in the world. With this information from our ears, as well as information from our eyes, joints, and muscles, our brain is able to keep us on our feet and going about our day.
In addition to this, our ears also help us locate where the sounds around us are coming from, something that helps with our spatial awareness. Put simply, spatial awareness is our awareness of the objects in the space around us, as well as our position within that space. When we experience hearing loss, we also experience a decreased sense of spatial awareness, since our ability to locate the source of sounds is decreased. This loss of spatial awareness, in turn, can cause falls.
Falls can be very dangerous, especially for older adults, causing injuries that range in severity from bruises to broken bones, or in the worst cases, death. Assistive listening devices can help us protect ourselves from these kinds of falls and injuries by helping with our spatial awareness.
Reconnect With the World Around You
Ultimately, our ability to hear allows us to be in touch with the world around us, from easing communication with others, protecting our cognitive abilities, and aiding in our spatial awareness. If you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, it’s time to visit Hearing Unlimited’s audiologists at our hearing loss centers. Through hearing assessments and understanding your needs, we can find the hearing aids that work best for you or your loved one. Or, if you want your loved one to receive the Gift of Hearing like last year’s recipient(opens in a new tab), submit your application, including a short essay on your nominee, here(opens in a new tab).
Have a wonderful holiday season!
Restore your hearing and reconnect with the world by visiting our hearing clinics near you! Request an appointment with Hearing Unlimited online today, or call (412)-347-5550 to schedule over the phone.