In the office the other day, we were talking about segment “Today” did back in January on the benefits of working into retirement.
They cited advantages like living longer, keeping your brain fit, reducing isolation and depression, and reinforcing identity.
The more we talked about it, the more we saw parallels between working into retirement and better hearing. It’s probably no surprise to you, but healthy hearing goes hand in hand with being able to do your best at work, too!
A 2007 study by the Better Hearing Institute found that workers are most affected by hearing loss during phone calls and conversations with co-workers. Conversely, nearly 7 in 10 participants reported improvements in their ability to communicate effectively when they used hearing aids. For jobs where communication is critical, treating hearing loss can pay dividends.
Researchers at Oregon State University found that healthy adults who retired one year past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes, even when taking into account demographic, lifestyle, and health issues. The study also found that adults who described themselves as unhealthy were likely to live longer if they kept working, which indicates that factors beyond health may affect post-retirement mortality.
- Falls: The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging confirmed that hearing loss is a significant factor in incident falls, as a mild hearing loss made patients nearly three times as likely to have reported a fall in the prior year.
It went on to say that the effects of hearing loss require a substantial amount of your cognitive load and shared attention. Hearing loss may affect spatial awareness and where the body is in position to other objects around it. Maintaining posture and body control requires mental resources that may be impaired by hearing loss, throwing off an individual’s balance in real-world situations. Such perceptive impairment may increase the risk of falling.
- Safety: Not being able to hear a cry for help, a warning, sirens, fire alarms, oncoming traffic, and the like puts you at a greater risk of accidents and injuries.
- Hospitalization: Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Association of Hearing Loss with Hospitalization and Burden of Disease in Older Adults” is the first nationally representative study to demonstrate an independent association between hearing loss and increased hospitalization rates. The results were startling: Compared to individuals with normal hearing, those with at least a mild hearing loss (25 dB or more) were more likely to be hospitalized more often.
Recent research has provided a wealth of new information about hearing loss and the brain, from where hearing actually happens — in the brain, not the ears — to how hearing loss can lead to issues such as dementia and depression.
In a University of Utah longitudinal cohort study of more than 4,400 older adults, otolaryngologist and professor Dr. Richard Gurgel and his team found that subjects with hearing loss developed dementia at a higher rate than their normal-hearing counterparts. The study, published in 2014, also suggested the following:
- People with hearing loss can experience earlier onset of cognitive decline.
- People with hearing loss can experience greater severity of cognitive decline.
- Hearing loss may be a marker for cognitive decline among people 65 and older.
Individuals who cannot understand or hear what others are saying sometimes choose to avoid social situations entirely rather than ask others to repeat themselves — especially in situations where background noise is significant. Avoiding social outings with friends and family begins the process of social isolation that contributes to loneliness and depression — two factors that have become more common in those with hearing loss.
Hearing aids are now able to adapt to those noisy environments, helping those who choose better hearing to have a better time.
Loss of independence is another significant reason for dissatisfaction with some aspects of life. The unwillingness to engage in social activities is one factor. People of all ages with hearing loss are also more likely to require assistance to perform regular daily activities such as preparing meals, shopping, and handling money. Individuals over the age of 70 with hearing loss are about one-third more likely to need help with shopping compared to those without hearing loss.