5 reasons to get your hearing checked

5 reasons to get your hearing checked

Ignoring hearing loss can harm your physical and mental health. Keep reading to learn why it’s important to have regular hearing exams.

Woman at doctor appointment getting ears & hearing checked

While it may sound strange, the effects of hearing loss reach well beyond your ears. In fact, it can affect you from head to toe. Hearing problems play a role in brain health and mood. You can also get hurt by not hearing warning sounds, like sirens or horns. What’s worse is that people with hearing loss wait an average of seven years before seeking help.1 And, as more time passes, the chances of hearing loss-related health issues go up.

It shouldn’t be that way. You can catch hearing loss early by staying on top of your annual hearing exams. And there are many ways your doctor can help preserve and improve your hearing. They can remove wax blockages, for instance, or recommend hearing aids and other devices that can strengthen sound.

If you’re due — or overdue — for your hearing exam, here are five reasons to schedule one today.*

1. Strong hearing helps you stay mentally sharp

There’s a connection between hearing loss and mental decline. Research has found that the worse your hearing loss is, the greater your risk of developing dementia as you get older.2 This may be partly because hearing loss can exhaust your mental reserve — that’s your brain’s ability to adapt and find different ways of completing a task.

Hearing loss can also make it harder to communicate, leading some people to avoid being social. That can take away things that keep the brain active and engaged, such as talking with others, trying new things and being active.2 “Over time, the less we stimulate the brain and engage our surroundings, the quicker our mental acuity is thought to decline,” says Kenny F. Lin, M.D. He’s an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Most of our plans include coverage for hearing exams and hearing aids through a network provider. Hearing benefits generally include one annual routine hearing exam and hearing aid fitting covered at 100 percent. Check your Evidence of Coverage (EOC) to learn more about hearing coverage and benefits.

Check your coverage/benefits. Go to your secure member website at AetnaMedicare.com/Login to register or log in.

2. Strong hearing helps keep you upbeat

Hearing loss is linked to feelings of depression, anxiety and frustration in adults.1 Older adults with hearing problems have been found to have a nearly 50 percent higher rate of depression, compared to those with healthy hearing.3 “Patients with hearing loss get frustrated with their inability to communicate easily. And as they withdraw from social interactions, they become increasingly at risk for depression,” Dr. Lin notes. “It can feel very powerless.”

3. Strong hearing is tied to your heart health

Studies show that heart disease has been linked to hearing loss. Experts aren’t sure which one comes first or if one causes the other. It may be that they share some of the same risk factors.4

For example, researchers know that diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking cause blood vessel damage that can lead to heart disease, explains Elliott D. Kozin, M.D., a physician at Mass Eye and Ear in Boston. They believe those same factors hurt the vessels that carry blood to the ears too. And that could lead to hearing loss.

If your ear doctor finds that you have hearing loss, it could be a sign that you’re at risk for heart disease. You should follow up with your primary care physician(PCP).5 They can make a referral to a hearing doctor.

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4. Strong hearing helps keep relationships strong

Hearing loss has been found to go together with social isolation and loneliness.6 It makes sense. When partners, family members, friends and coworkers feel like you’re not listening or communicating well with them, they may feel frustrated or hurt. For people who struggle to hear, conversations become less enjoyable. And their self-confidence in social settings can drop. “Over time, this frustration and difficulty communicating can strain personal relationships,” Dr. Lin says.

5. Strong hearing can lower your chance of trips and falls

Older adults with hearing loss have a much higher chance of falling, research has found.7 It may be because they’re losing postural control. That’s the ability to stay in control and balanced during movement.8 “That makes sense, because the inner ear plays a role in balance,” Dr. Kozin says. Plus, if your hearing is weak and you’re out in public, you may be less likely to hear cars, cyclists or other pedestrians. That can set you up for collisions or other accidents.

The take-home message:

If you suspect your hearing isn’t as strong as it used to be, don’t wait to get your hearing checked, advises Dr. Kozin. The same goes if the people in your life have suggested that you’ve missed or misunderstood parts of conversations. It’s not just your hearing that’s at stake — your physical, mental and emotional health are too.

*Some plans don’t offer a hearing benefit. Check your Evidence of Coverage (EOC) for details.

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  1. Hearing Loss Association of America. Do you think you have a hearing loss? Accessed January 19, 2023.
  2. Lin FR, Metter EJ, O’Brien RJ, et al. Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology. February 2011; 68 (2): 214-220.
  3. Lawrence BJ, Jayakody DMP, Bennett RJ, et al. Hearing loss and depression in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gerontologist. April 2, 2020; 60 (3): e137-e154.
  4. Tan HE, Lan NSR, Knuiman MW, et al. Associations between cardiovascular disease and its risk factors with hearing loss — a cross-sectional analysis. Clinical Otolaryngology. February 2018; 43 (1): 172-181.
  5. The Triological Society. Low-frequency hearing loss may indicate cardiovascular disease. ENTtoday. September 1, 2009. Accessed January 9, 2023.
  6. Maharani A, Pendleton N, and Leroi I. Hearing impairment, loneliness, social isolation, and cognitive function: longitudinal analysis using English longitudinal study on ageing. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. December 2019; 27 (12) 1348-1356.
  7. Jiam NT-L, Li C, Agrawal Y. Hearing loss and falls: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Laryngoscope. November 2016; 126 (11): 2587-2596.
  8. Agmon M, Lavie L, Doumas M. The association between hearing loss, postural control, and mobility in older adults: a systematic review. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. June 2017; 28 (6): 575-588.

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