A new global study shows that looking after your ears is more than just about being able to hear better.
Hearing affects almost every aspect of our lives: our family life, social life and relationships, but also our physical and mental health and overall well-being. And yet, there’s still a stigma attached to hearing loss that we don’t assign to what is considered our other most important sense: our sight. Because while 1 in 3 of us are planning an eye test this year, to which we’d hardly give a second thought, only about 1 in 10 intend to test our hearing.
The mismatch, the way we value our sight much higher, is often down to our relationship with our hearing, and the perception of what it means when it starts to fade. We think it means we’re getting old.
So much so that, according to Brits, hearing loss is the third most stigmatising aspect of ageing, after frailty and forgetfulness.
Dr Dalia Tsimpida, Chartered Psychologist and multi-awarded Hearing Research Scientist at The University of Manchester, says, “We must move the conversation on from talking about hearing loss and ageing – this research and my own studies recognise hearing loss as one of the most stigmatising aspects of ageing, and yet there are ways to protect your hearing throughout life.”
The irony is by ignoring our hearing, we’re actually putting ourselves at greater risk of the number one health concern of the British public: dementia. And while the majority of us are aware of this condition, only 1 in 10 realise that treating hearing loss early could actually reduce our risk of developing dementia by between two and five times, depending on the severity of the loss.
Love your ears to feel younger
So while hearing aids may be perceived as being connected to ageing by those who have yet to adopt them, people fitted with hearing aids tend to feel the exact opposite.
“The upsides are clear – those in the research sample fitted with a hearing aid reported feeling younger, more empowered, and closer to loved ones,” says Farah Kiani, Chief Audiologist at Hidden Hearing, “People are 20% less likely to ‘feel old’, 1 in 3 felt more in control, and 1 in 4 claimed better relationships.”
Hearing care doesn’t start with hearing aids either, it’s something we can all practise, at any time in our lives, as an act of self-care.
“We can reduce our risk of hearing loss over a lifetime; turn your headphones down, wear ear protection when directed, get tested regularly and from an earlier age. Love your ears means taking a proactive approach to our hearing,” says Kiani.
For the World Health Organization’s World Hearing Day (3 March 2022), we’re encouraging anyone who might be unsure of how well they can hear to take a free online hearing test.
Kiani says, “Let’s take our hearing loss more seriously, Hidden Hearing’s 5 minute online hearing test can provide an immediate insight into how well you hear and how we can improve our health and our happiness.”
Sources: “A Global study on Wellbeing and Quality of Life”, YouGov, 24,000 adults, across 14 countries, December 2021.
Livingston G., Huntley J., Sommerlad A. , et al., Dementia prevention, intervention,and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission