Almost every day I read about a new hearing loss study, research or statistics. Most of them sound exciting and others are single-eyebrow-raising, such as surveys announcing how many of us actually have hearing loss. The stats for the overall population seem to fluctuate a great deal, from the often-quoted but urban myth of 10% to between 16-25%.
Why the big difference – are we perhaps a difficult group to count? Is there perhaps a shortage of counters? And why, when they do count, do they use such narrow population criteria, such as Chinese Factory Workers or Swedish Teachers or Seniors in Rural Kentucky, or Large Fishing Families in Newfoundland Outports, or Teenagers Whose Ears Ring After a Concert? And to be honest, we don’t always put up our hand to be counted. Even when asked on a census, we may not tell the truth (“Hmm, that’s a ‘no’. I’m not harda-hearing, just don’t hear the wife too well anymore, nothing important.”)
Some of the research project titles are beyond me, requiring a triple-PhD to understand what the researcher is saying. Take, for example, this study posted on The Journal@HHTM: An Investigation of the Relationship of ABR Wave V to Na-Pa of the MLR . Now, I’m sure this is a fine study that will quicken the heartbeats of hearing researchers around the world. But, although I understand these medical studies have the potential to someday improve my hearing, I’ll wait for the results to be announced in plain English.
Mind you, there has been some interesting, understandable stuff coming out recently.
Study #1: People with hearing loss who don’t use hearing aids are more tired at night. Surveys conducted of people with significant hearing loss in Italy, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Japan showed that 50% of non-hearing aid-users said they often felt mentally exhausted in the evenings, as compared to 30% of those who use hearing aids. So, it’s clear that if you need a hearing aid and you use one, there’s a good chance you’ll be mentally fresh as a daisy come dinner time.
But, unfortunately, I fall in the 30% of hearing aid users – I often feel pooped at night. Is that because I’m Canadian? Would I do better hanging out in Germany? Or am I pooped because of something else – age, lack of sleep? Still, this is good stuff to know. My German friend with hearing loss will be pleased to learn that after a long day of reading people’s lips, chances are she’ll still be raring to go!
Study #2: Stress makes exhausted women over-sensitive to sounds. According to a Swedish study, women suffering from stress-related exhaustion exhibit hypersensitivity to sounds when exposed to stress. But this is where I start to get confused. I need more information. Would this sound sensitivity be all day or just in the evenings? Are these woman wearing anything in their ears?
Study #3: Red wine may protect against noise-induced hearing loss. A plant compound found in red grapes and red wine may guard against hearing loss and cognitive decline, according to a study published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Fabulous! This is something I can understand. But I’m hoping that rosé, my personal favorite and which is kind of red and kind of white, may also offer some protection. If not, I’m switching to Shiraz, Merlot or some other horsey-sounding wine.
Study #4: High blood pressure can lead to hearing loss. A Mumbai study showed that people suffering from high blood pressure could also suffer from hearing loss as a result of their medical condition. However, if the hypertension is controlled with the right medication, additional loss of hearing can be prevented.
But guess what? According to another study reported by the American Heart Association, non-alcoholic red wine can reduce blood pressure, which in turn can help prevent hearing loss. So, if you take Studies # 3 and #4 together, it’s clear that we should drink red wine with alcohol and without. (I’d suggest the fake stuff for breakfast and the real stuff for dinner – which may have the added benefit of helping the stress-and-loud-noise issue of Study #2.)
Study #5: The chance of dementia is increased in people with hearing loss. A 2011 study from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that hearing loss may increase one’s chances of developing dementia. In the study, Dr. Frank Lin reported that for every 10 decibels of hearing lost, the extra likelihood of development jumped up by 20 percent.
This is not good news for me. I have a 75-dB loss, which means I have a 140% chance of developing dementia. (And if my math is wrong on this – please, let me know.) But here’s the thing – do I get brownie points for being a hearing aid user and having, as of this minute, converted to red wine?
Study #6: Stanford University has introduced the “Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss”. This is a positive research initiative that I’m going take at face value. They’re not saying maybe or that there’s a ‘27% chance of’. The title clearly states that these people are going to find a cure for hearing loss. And that’s why, for now, I’m not reading any further than the title.
So, let’s sum up and look at what we’ve got here. Let’s say we have a woman, late-50’ish, severe-to-profound hearing loss who wears her hearing aids all the time, keeps the grey matter bubbling with activity, drinks fake wine for brekkie and a smooth cab-sauv for din-dins, checks her blood pressure regularly, and works hard to reduce stress in her life.
By adopting all these strategies, would her hearing loss go into reverse? Or would we simply have a healthy, physically fit and mentally agile woman who knows how to live successfully with hearing loss?
The latter? Oh damn.