As we age, hearing issues are the most common we face above all other senses. Recent research suggests that there may be a connection between loss of hearing and the accelerated deterioration of our cognitive abilities.
It is estimated that one in seven people are currently suffering from a hearing problem in the UK. These hearing impairments may be symptomatic of genetics, over-exposure to noise or simply due to the ageing process. An inability to hear efficiently often leads to socialising issues through lack of communication, and can result in disadvantages throughout education and employment.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated in 2005 that approximately five million people around the world suffer from profound hearing loss, and that 50% of those affected are over 65 and suffering from prebycusis, (age related hearing loss).
Prebycusis is set to increase over the next 20-30 years and is predicted by Prof Adrian Davis, (of the British MRC Institute of Hearing Research), to affect approximately 100 million Europeans. One reason for this prediction is an increase in ‘social noise’ that comes from lifestyle choices such as listening to loud music on personal headphones and attending loud social events. This kind of noise is unregulated and is therefore more likely to impact our future health.
With early diagnoses and treatment, many hearing impairments can be both prevented and managed, leading to improvements in life outcomes. Research however, is suggesting that if the issue is undiagnosed or untreated it may contribute to an increased rate of cognitive decline as we grow older.
It has not been proved yet if hearing loss is a cause or simply a risk factor relating to the decline of our cognitive abilities, however dementia and other age related cognitive issues are predicted to put a serious strain on health services and is an issue that requires immediate attention.
To find out more about Dementia and how a counsellor could help you, please see our Dementia page.
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