Forgoing a hearing aid if you have significant hearing loss may even be detrimental, because nerves in the auditory system aren’t being activated.
Recent research links hearing aids and mental health. “If you can’t take part in conversations anymore, you can become socially withdrawn and isolated, and we know that can lead to depression,” Lustig says.
Other studies have linked cognitive decline and dementia, including studies from Dr. Justin Golub, assistant professor of otolaryngology/head & neck surgery at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and an assistant attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
“There’s clearly an association between dementia and hearing loss,” Dr. Lustig says. “The question is whether one causes the other, but we don’t have a definitive answer yet.”
Studies are underway to determine if hearing aids can slow cognitive decline in the elderly, but don’t wait for the results, Dr. Lustig says.
“A lot of people think they can go about their lives just fine without hearing aids, but hearing loss is not benign,” Dr. Lustig says. “The ruling by the FDA will hopefully make hearing aids more affordable and attractive, and people will start to realize what they’ve been missing.”
Lawrence Lustig, MD, otolaryngologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the Howard W. Smith Professor of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, is one of the nation’s leading experts in hearing loss. He treats the full spectrum of ear disorders in adults and children, as well as skull base disease. His specialties include skull base surgery, cochlear implants, the genetics of hearing loss, cochlear gene therapy, balance disorders, and hair cell physiology.
This story first appeared in the Columbia University Irving Medical Center Newsroom.