Amy Paturel, a health and science writer shared in the AARP Bulletin, July-August 2017, that changes in sensory function can make everyday pleasures feel flat while increasing risk of other health issues.
Jazz trumpeter Kris Chesky pops in foam earplugs when he mows the lawn or gets on an airplane. Onstage, he asks the band to play quiet passages even more pianissimo. “Once you’ve got hearing loss, due to aging or sound exposure, you can’t get it back,” says Chesky, 58, a University of North Texas music professor and codirector of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health. “I want to keep what I’ve got, even if it makes me a little unpopular sometimes.”
Tens of millions of Americans suffer age-related losses in at least one of their senses, according to a recent University of Chicago study. Such changes can make everyday pleasures feel flat while increasing the risk of other health issues, such as poor nutrition, falling, depression or dementia.
A lifetime of noise — power tools, a loud workplace, that Who concert — along with normal aging can cause deterioration. The tiny hair cells in your ears that send signals to your brain don’t regenerate, notes Frank Lin, associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Your brain shrinks as you age, but hearing loss can accelerate this shrinking, which can more than double the risk of dementia. You’re also more likely to suffer falls. “Balance gets thrown off when you can’t hear your footsteps,” Lin says. Hearing loss also increases your odds for depression and loneliness.
What you can do:
- Wear foam earplugs or ear-protecting headphones around loud sounds.
- Watch your weight, blood sugar level and blood pressure to keep the tiny arteries that fuel hair cells in your ears healthy.
- Visit the AARP Hearing Resource Center for more information.
- Use hearing aids or devices to amplify the sound of your phone or TV. In a 2016 study at Columbia University in New York, hearing aid users scored better than nonusers on cognitive and memory tests.