Listen up! The health consequences of untreated hearing loss

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MURRAY – The concerts, the parades, the fireworks — summer can be loud. So, taking care of your ears is key.

"A lot of noise exposure is going to eventually cause those little hair cells in our ears to not work the way they're supposed to," said Dr. Aubrey Passey, an audiologist at Intermountain Cottonwood Audiology on the TOSH campus.

Around 600,000 people in Utah have hearing loss, and many may not realize it until they're tested.

Not only can hearing loss affect how we communicate, but studies show a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline, especially in older adults.

"We kind of start to isolate. When we can't engage with our community, life gets really hard," Passey said.

Those with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia than those without hearing problems, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins. Hearing loss was also found to be connected to balance issues and depression.

A 2023 study published in the Lancet reported that hearing aids play a big role in slowing cognitive decline in high-risk adults, but Passey said more research needs to be done on the link between the two.

If you think something is off with you or a loved one, talk to your doctor.

"If you notice a change in hearing — especially if it's sudden — that needs to be treated as soon as possible," Passey said.

Those with known hearing problems should get checked at least once a year. If you haven't had your hearing checked before, Passey said it's never too late to start. A simple hearing test involves a patient wearing headphones or earplugs in a sound booth while an audiologist plays various tones or beeps, and the patient pushes a button when they hear them.

Other ways to take care of your ears?

  • Value your quiet time.
  • Watch your phone volume.
  • Wear earplugs in loud environments.

"If you're in a place where you need to yell to be heard, you need to be wearing hearing protection," Passey said.

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Emma Benson
Emma Benson is a storyteller and broadcast media professional, passionate about sharing truthful, meaningful stories that will impact communities. She graduated with a journalism degree from BYU, and has worked as a morning news anchor with KIFI News Group in Idaho Falls. She joined the KSL-TV team in October 2023.


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