If January is the newborn of the calendar family, rich with the promises of a New Year, September is its older, wiser cousin, reflective yet still committed to finishing strong down the home stretch. That may be why September is Self Improvement Month, an annual designation opportunely placed just before the launch of the chaotic holiday season. There’s no reason you can’t multi-task here. In an effort to help get your started, did you know proactively managing your hearing health can be a catalyst for improvement in all areas of life? Let us explain...
Here’s a sobering statistic. According to research published in the April 2016 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, less than three percent of Americans meet the basic qualifications of a healthy lifestyle. The researchers based their findings on four criteria: 1) moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, 2) a diet score in the top 40 percent of the Healthy Eating Index, 3) a body fat percentage under 20 percent (men) or 30 percent (women), and 4) not smoking.
How is this related to your hearing health? Ask yourself -- do you need to lose a little weight? Stop smoking? Get more exercise? All of those activities are good for your hearing health, too. The sensitive hair cells of the inner ear depend on good circulation to do their job, which is to translate the noise your ears collect into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret as recognizable sound. Maintaining a sensible weight and exercising regularly is good for circulation. Nicotine and carbon monoxide deplete oxygen levels and constrict blood vessels all over your body, including those responsible for the health of your ear’s hair cells.
Less than three percent of Americans meet the basic qualifications of a healthy lifestyle.
Your hearing health can affect your brain health and emotional well being, too. While the Deaf community has a vibrant language involving hand gestures and facial expressions, those who were born hearing and experience hearing loss struggle with communication. Studies indicate managing that loss reduces the risk of developing dementia as well as depression, anxiety and social isolation.
- A new report by the Lancet Commissions on Dementia Prevention lists hearing loss as one of nine risk factors for dementia. The report, presented at the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Convention, suggests as much as one third of all dementia may be delayed or prevented by eliminating the risk factors.
- Research by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NICDC) indicates hearing loss can take its toll on your emotional well being, too. The main findings of a 2014 study found depression was 11 percent higher in those with hearing loss, compared to 5 percent for those with normal hearing.
Turns out, you aren’t the only one affected by your hearing loss. When you aren’t hearing your best, relationships suffer. It’s frustrating for your partner to continually repeat what they are saying. Turning up the volume on the television is uncomfortable for other family members. And, when you don’t correctly hear a directive at work or school, you jeopardize your financial and educational future.
But don’t take our word for it. Participants in a survey by Cochlear Americas and published in the ASHA Leader admit relationships with a romantic partner suffered the most as a result of their hearing loss, followed by relationships with family, friends and coworkers.
In another study conducted by Action on Hearing Loss, both those with hearing loss and their partners said untreated hearing loss caused frustration and loneliness. Most couples said they have curtailed their social activities. The hearing partner worried about safety, fearing their partner won’t hear the fire alarm or traffic in an emergency situation.
Managing your hearing health can even help your pocketbook. In a comprehensive survey conducted by the Better Hearing Institute, the estimated cost in lost earnings due to hearing loss is $122 billion, which translates to an estimated cost to society of $18 billion in unrealized federal income taxes.
How to get started
So, let the self improvement begin! More and more, medical professionals agree that caring for your sense of hearing can make you happier, healthier and wealthier! Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and have your hearing evaluated regularly by a hearing healthcare provider. When you do, you may just find that making those New Year’s resolutions are a little easier come January 1.