The hearing aid industry has long promoted the ideas that good hearing promotes good mental health and that hearing aids help ensure this relationship. The overall concept is that restoring good hearing to our patients helps build good communication, which enables building of strong social relationships, which helps keep depression at bay, which contributes positively to measures of patients’ Quality of Life (QOL). Read on to find out just how important staying connected to life really is.
Good hearing keeps you in the game, but how much is good social activity worth? Various studies have linked social connections to better health and longer life, but it hasn’t been clear whether healthy people were more socially active to begin with. A review of 148 studies from researchers at Brigham Young University looked at healthy people who were followed for 7.5 years, on average. The study(ies) controlled for the health of the subjects.
The results showed that the value of social interaction was stronger and than you might thing. Based on the data from these studies, weak social ties in your community are a major risk factor to your health, at least as harmful to your health as smoking, lack of exercise or obesity. For instance:
- You have a 50% lower risk of dying if you have close friends, family or work relationships.
- Poor socialization threatens your health as much as if you were an alcoholic or were smoking a pack a day.
- Poor social connections are harder on your health than not exercising, or being obese.
The study concludes that medical checkups should screen patients for social well being, with the goal of enhancing social connections.
It goes almost without saying that medical checkups should also screen patients for hearing loss, to ensure that patients have a good shot at maintaining social well being. We think and hope readers will agree that hearing well is an essential ingredient for developing and maintaining successful social networks.
American Academy of Audiology. Untreated hearing loss linked to depression, social isolation in seniors. Aud Today, 11:4, 1999.
National Council on the Aging (NCOA): The consequences of untreated hearing loss in older adults. Conducted by the Seniors Research Group. Supported through a grant from the Hearing Industries Association. May 1999.
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB,Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
Parker-Pope T. (2010). A new risk factor: Your social life. NYTimes, 7/28/2010.