Posts Tagged ‘hearing’

Hearing, Aging and Mental Function

Monday, March 4th, 2013 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

New findings published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggest that older adults who are hard of hearing may experience a more rapid decline in thinking skills, compared to older adults without hearing problems.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore studied 1,984 men and women in their seventies and eighties. At the beginning of the study, most of the participants (1,162) did have some hearing loss, but none exhibited signs of impaired memory or thinking ability.

During a six-year follow-up period, the participants underwent periodic testing to assess their memory, concentration and language skills. During that interim, 609 of them showed new signs of mental decline. Interestingly, the risk was 24 percent higher in those who had hearing deficits.

This study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, did not prove a cause and effect relationship between hearing loss and dementia. However, it did underscore the importance of having one’s hearing checked regularly by a qualified health professional as one ages.

Hearing problems might contribute to declines in cognitive function by promoting social isolation. When it is difficult to hear what others are saying, some elders tend to avoid interaction. Previous research has connected social withdrawal to an elevated risk for dementia.

Also, it is possible that hearing loss might cause one’s brain to expend extra energy trying to process the "garbled" input that it is receiving through the ears. This could mean taking resources away from other brain functions such as memory.

Hearing loss impacts approximately two-thirds of persons over age seventy. Hearing aids and other assistive devices, for example, telephone amplifiers may be helpful. Whether successfully treating hearing impairment can slow down declines in cognitive function is a question soon to be tackled by the research team that conducted this investigation.

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Exercises to Improve Hearing?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

SFA author Jim Evans is a 45-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he shares some helpful — and somewhat surprising — news on how to cope productively with hearing loss.

DEAR JIM: My hearing has gotten worse over the past few years (I’m 72), and it is frustrating — and embarrassing — in social situations when people have to repeat themselves when I can’t hear what they are saying. It’s my own fault because I haven’t had my hearing checked for a long time, and I really don’t like the thought of having to wear a hearing aid. I know there probably aren’t any "exercises" for hearing loss, but I thought I would ask anyway. SUFFERING IN SILENCE IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR SUFFERING: Believe it or not, there really are exercises for improving your hearing. Well, sort of.

While actual hearing loss usually cannot be reversed, sometimes there are "focus exercises" (www.hearingloss.ca/focus-exercises.html)
that can help you to better concentrate on what you are hearing. In other words, you may not be suffering from hearing loss as much as a lack of focus on what is being said.

On the other hand, you may only have conductive hearing loss, which according to the Hearing Loss Association of America (hearingloss.org/), is "the most easily treated type of hearing loss, which occurs when the sound vibrations are not being conducted through the outer and middle ears effectively. This can be due to wax build-up or an infection in the ear canal, fluid build-up or an infection behind the eardrum, damage to the eardrum or ossicles [the three tiny bones of the inner ear], or thickening of the eardrum or ossicles. Some of these are remedied easily, some require medication, and others require surgery, which may not be able to fully restore the hearing."

Of course, the only way you are going to know for sure if you really have hearing loss, or not, is to get checked by your doctor. So what are you waiting for? Even if you do eventually have to wear a hearing aid, it will greatly improve your quality of life, so what’s the downside? Vanity? One of the advantages of today’s modern technology is that the new hearing aids (www.nuear.com/hearing-aids/) are so small and unobtrusive that no one else even knows you are wearing one most of the time anyway.

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