That's a nice compliment you're not hearing
If you’ve ever had a rotten day significantly improve after receiving a compliment, you know the power a few kind words possess. Mark Twain once famously said he could “live for two months on a good compliment.” Although one might need a bit more sustenance than that, receiving a compliment does have healthy benefits. In fact the process is so revered, there’s even a National Compliment Day -- January 24 -- to recognize it.
Scientists believe giving and receiving compliments provides a variety of health benefits, including strengthening your immune system, increasing productivity, and decreasing levels of stress, pain and insomnia. A study about compliments conducted by the National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Nagoya Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo, found that positive reinforcement in the form of a compliment activates the same reward center in the brain as does receiving monetary compensation.
You might be missing out on these health benefits if you have untreated hearing loss. In fact, just as compliments stimulate certain areas of the brain to increase happiness and joy, untreated hearing loss has the opposite effect. When the auditory system of a hearing person is damaged and left untreated, the speech and communication center of the brain, as well as those involved with memory and sensory integration, can atrophy, leaving that person at greater risk for developing emotional and physical problems such as social isolation, depression, anxiety, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news? If you have sensorineural hearing loss, chances are good you’ll benefit from wearing hearing aids. Amplification can aid your remaining sense of hearing, increasing your ability to communicate with family, friends and colleagues, enhancing your quality of life, and making it much easier to hear those sweet words of appreciation you’re likely to receive on National Compliment Day.
Grandpa, you’re the best!
Yes, we’re unabashedly pulling at heart strings here. Who doesn’t like to hear a loved one express their gratitude? However, if you’ve developed age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, it may be difficult to understand compliments from the young children and women in your life. That’s because this type of hearing loss makes it more difficult to understand high pitched sounds, such as the voices of women and children.
And, while those with presbycusis likely find it easier to understand a male voice, speech in general may sound slurred or muffled, with high-pitched sounds such as “s” or “th” difficult to distinguish. It’s also common to experience tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, and find sounds loud or more annoying than normal.
While there’s no way to reverse this type of hearing loss, you can be diligent about preserving what hearing you have left. Since most cases of presbycusis occur as the result of long-term exposure to loud noise, do your best to avoid noisy environments; wear earplugs or noise-cancelling earphones when it’s unavoidable.
Compliments of nature
Nature has its own way of delivering healthful compliments to the human body and spirit. A study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that participants who were exposed to nature sounds after watching an offensive video improved their mood much faster than those who watched an offensive video and were then exposed to man-made sounds such as voices or motorized vehicles.
Often, because hearing loss occurs gradually and over a period of time, you may not be aware of what you’re missing. One consumer, 84-year old Marie Redfern of Camden, New Jersey, told Healthy Hearing she was so intrigued by hearing sounds she had been missing before wearing hearing aids, she took a nighttime stroll around her neighborhood soon after being fit with her devices. “I heard a lot of different sounds and little noises in the grass,” she said. “It’s a whole different world out there in the dark.” Additionally, hearing healthcare professionals have shared stories of patients who were pleasantly surprised to hear the chirp of crickets and songbirds -- sounds they didn’t realize their damaged auditory system had stopped processing. “I always tell my patients, 'You don’t know what you’re missing because you’re missing it,'" Susan Marshall, Au.D. of Brookside Specialty Center in Rockford, Illinois told us. “Hearing loss affects your whole life.”
You might be the one to express appreciation if you’re alerted to an emergency by the sound of a siren, bell or whistle. And, it’s perfectly acceptable to be grateful for the appliances that make your life easier. Today’s ovens and microwaves beep and chime when they’ve finished cooking, washers and dryers sing to you when the cycle is finished.
Since most of the signals from emergency vehicles, smoke alarms and other devices emit high-frequency sounds which are difficult for those with impaired hearing to hear, untreated hearing loss may significantly compromise your safety in an emergency situation.
Fortunately, those with impaired hearing can order special low-frequency emitting smoke alarms and bed shakers as well as other notification systems designed for telephones, doors and windows, or to monitor weather and babies’ rooms. The key is to have your hearing evaluated by a professional and discuss whether this assistive technology would be of benefit.
The rewards of hearing your best go well beyond being able to hear compliments on National Compliment Day. Research published in the June 2016 issue of The Hearing Review from self-reported information collected on more than 120,000 hearing aid owners in six different countries indicate a high percentage (70%-84%) are satisfied with their devices. Respondents gave their hearing aids credit for improving relationships at home and at work, gave them a better sense of safety and independence, and improved their memory and mental health.
Of course, the only way to determine if you have hearing loss is to schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional. The process is easy and painless. You can find a local hearing healthcare professional in Healthy Hearing’s Find a Clinic directory. Compliments aside, it may be one of the healthiest things you do for yourself and your family.