Hearing loss is something that comes to many of us, but it is also something that is being helped now more than ever. With better equipment for detecting a problem and more sophisticated hearing aid technology, there is more effective help available than ever.
It is not just the practical benefits of all this expertise and tech that can be enjoyed now; if you book a hearing test you might be doing your mental health an enormous favour.
Mental health is an issue that has received a huge amount of increased publicity in recent years as taboos concerning it have faded away. Many famous people have been willing to admit their struggles, from royals like Prince Harry to musicians like Ed Sheeran, or sports stars like heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury.
However, while mental health issues are talked about more, many might still not be aware of the clear links between hearing loss and mental health problems.
There are various reasons why this is so. One of them is a direct impact on the brain: The temporal lobe, a key part of the brain that deals with hearing, is impacted by a loss of function in this area. In other ways, however, the effects are more practical.
If you find yourself not hearing things well, there can be misunderstanding, frustration and irritation. Struggling to keep up with what is going on can lead to fatigue. All of that can have a wearing effect on the mind and lead to cognitive decline.
In addition, not being able to hear can well lead to social isolation and loneliness, with this commonly leading to depression. Indeed, depression often results from physical ailments and the link between body and mind is more clearly acknowledged.
The biggest area of concern is dementia, with studies showing that even mild loss doubles the chances of developing the condition. This risk increases to three times the average for moderate hearing loss and five times for severe hearing loss.
Needless to say, this is the most concerning mental health issue of all. While a condition like depression is reversible and many others, such as bipolar and even schizophrenia, can be managed to varying degrees, dementia is irreversible and degenerative. There is no cure, only prevention.
A study published in The Lancet in 2020 identified 12 factors that can impact dementia risk, with hearing loss not only listed as one of them, but also the one that can be affected the most. Quite simply, if you get a test showing you need a hearing aid, having one fitted so you can hear well will greatly reduce the chances of getting dementia.
Of course, some people see hearing loss and having a hearing aid as a sign of ageing and will feel stigmatised about it, especially if it happens at a relatively young age. But just as lifting taboos about mental health helps people acknowledge the need to get help, so being willing to confront any potential stigma over hearing issues can make it easier to access solutions.
Given what is at stake both for the practicalities of daily life and your wide mental well-being, getting a hearing test can be absolutely vital. If you think you may need one, do not hesitate.