Asked about their physical fitness, 45% of hearing aid owners and 44% of non-owners say that: “I am as physically fit as my friends and acquaintances.” By comparison, 43% of respondents in the control group agree with this statement (top 2 boxes in each case). It appears that hearing loss has no influence on health and physical fitness. Or does it?
If we look just at those respondents whose hearing loss is more than “mild”, clear differences suddenly emerge. In the group of hearing aid users, there are still 44% who feel just as fit as their friends and acquaintances. However, in the group of those who have not yet done anything about their hearing loss, the figure is only 34%.
Robert Beiny, Audiologist (UK)
Wearing or not wearing a hearing aid affects not only physical fitness, but also other aspects of wellbeing. The “Hearing is Living” study shows that those respondents (moderate to severe hearing loss) who do not wear a hearing aid feel sad or depressed much more frequently than the equivalent group of hearing aid owners; they are more likely to feel insecure or angry for no reason, have more often lost interest in areas of their lives that used to be important to them, feel more isolated and frustrated, and above all they suffer more frequently from insomnia (see Figure 16).
Figure 16: First signs of depression
The symptoms mentioned here are generally regarded as possible first indicators of depressive disorders. Dr. Annette Menzel, a doctor specializing in psychiatry, psychotherapy, neurology and psychoanalysis in Kassel (Germany), had these comments on the results: “The relatively high agreement levels for individual aspects of depression in people with hearing loss but without a hearing aid do not surprise me. One can clearly see that people who do not have a higher-grade hearing loss corrected are more likely to suffer depressive symptoms.”
A possible consequence of the faulty communication that arises through the hearing disorder, Dr. Menzel explains, is isolation of the affected person. People with hearing loss lack the usual opportunities for human contact – the consequences of this isolation can be the development of depression and increased anxiety, but also increasing mistrust of others. It is obvious that a hearing aid can quickly provide relief here. In connection with the slight differences in the tendency to depression between the control group and the hearing aid users, the expert points out: “Hearing loss does not by any means automatically lead to depression – it is much more a matter of how one deals with it.”
Figure 17: Concentration
Another area within health and wellbeing is “concentration and relaxation”. Here the study clearly shows that hearing aid owners have an easier time with both of these aspects than non-users do. They can concentrate better, and are less likely to lose the thread when telling a story (see Figure 17). And the respondents with hearing aids also seem better at relaxation. 59% of them state that they are good at relaxing, while for non-users the figure is only 49% (moderate to severe hearing loss in each case).
Dr. Inge Richter, consultant in the department for hearing damage in the Klinikum am Europakanal in Erlangen (Germany), comments: “Especially when the hearing loss occurs for the first time when the person is already an adult, communication problems tend to be glossed over and concealed. But this becomes increasingly difficult with increasing hearing loss. The stress associated with this can lead to a growing impairment of one’s quality of life.” In her everyday clinical practice, Dr. Richter often finds that patients who can no longer compensate their hearing loss adequately complain of diverse physical and mental problems as an expression of the situation of permanent stress. Dr. Richter goes on to explain that treatment with a hearing aid enables the restoration of an acoustic link with the world around us, and contributes to an improvement in the communication situation. “Speech is heard more clearly, and one no longer needs to concentrate so hard all the time. Hearing aid users can thus relax better, experience less stress, and regain their quality of life.” Despite all the relaxation, boredom is not a problem for the hearing aid users who were surveyed. Just under three quarters of the wearers (74%) agree with the statement: “I like to keep myself occupied in my free time – I’m never bored”, which is just as many as in the control group (73%). In the group of those who do not yet have a hearing aid, only 61% agree with this statement (top 2 boxes, moderate/severe hearing loss).
If one takes all these results together, it is not surprising at all that seven out of ten respondents believe that their hearing aid has had a positive effect on their health.