Vision and Hearing Impairments Can Affect Your Mind
Those who suffer from hearing loss or visual impairments may also suffer from mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as the inability to care for oneself. “If the senses are limited, says Dennis Norman EdD, Chief of Psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital, “everything is affected, including interaction with one’s surroundings, relationships, activities and feelings of self-worth.”
Visual impairment means being blind in one or both eyes or having significant trouble seeing. Hearing impairment is deafness in one or both ears, or having significant trouble hearing. An estimated 3.6 million Americans over age 70 suffer some form of visual impairment and 6.7 million report hearing impairment. Some 1.7 million report having both visual and hearing impairments.
Memory and cognition can also suffer when vision and hearing falter, though it is not clear whether memory and thinking ability decline due to organic changes in the brain related to the physical impairments or if social isolation or a lack of stimulating activities and subsequent depression leads to declines. A study at Brandeis University suggested that hearing impairment leads to memory problems simply because too much effort is directed toward the task of hearing, sacrificing comprehension.
It’s important to get your vision and hearing checked regularly, to catch problems early and to take preventive measures, such as:
1. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation.
2. Use earplugs if necessary when in a noisy environment. (Even the sound from household vacuum cleaners can harm delicate hair cells in the inner ear.)
3. Keep earphone volume low when using earpieces or headphones
4. Give up smoking and manage health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, which can damage eyes and ears.
5. Eat a healthy diet which includes plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, fish and protein to provide vitamin C, beta-carotene, E, zinc, D, B12 and folate, lutein, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and selenium. Take a multi-vitamin to ensure you’re getting enough of the basics.
6. In addition, ask your doctor about taking supplements: vinpocetine and ginkgo may help prevent or relieve hearing loss. Lutein and zeaxanthin may help prevent vision loss.
7. Take advantage of specialized magnifying glasses and hearing aids that will help you stay engaged and independent.
8. Get professional help for anxiety and depression, should they occur.
9. Consider joining a support group if you’re having a hard time coping with a visual or hearing impairment.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Sensory impairments can cause serious degradations to your quality of life on many levels. But you are not powerless to stop them. Even if you already have symptons you can slow or reverse their progression. In addition to lifestyle changes, adjustments to your diet may have very positive benefits. There is also strong research that supports the use of dietary supplements to help slow or prevent sensory impairments.
QUICK TIP: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in industrialized countries. Did you know that smokers have quadruple the risk of developing macular degeneration? Learn More
Written exclusively for Stop Aging Now, the authority on anti-aging research, anti-aging nutrition, and anti-aging supplements