Open any magazine and you’re bound to find an article on how to turn back the hands of time. Posts on health and wellness are among the most popular on social media. Many of us hope to age gracefully and happily by looking and feeling our best.
But is worrying about looking older delaying our decision to get hearing aids?
If so, The Harvard Study of Adult Development should change our minds.
For 75 years, the study tracked the lives of its subjects and found that the key to being happy and healthy as we age is the strength of our relationships. It’s not professional accomplishments, financial stability or looking like we did when we were 30. It’s having good relationships.
“The clearest message that we get from this study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier,” said psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, current director of the study. Dr. Waldinger and three generations of fellow researchers examined the medical records, brain scans and interviews of 724 participants over a 75-year period. They also interviewed family and friends, and what they discovered is fascinating.
The study found that the number of friends a person has isn’t important, but the quality of those friendships is.
The quality of our relationships is key
Happiness and health late in life is tied to the health of our relationships. Connectivity to our family, friends and communities are vital for our health. In fact, researchers found that 50-year olds with the highest level of satisfaction in relationships turned out to be the healthiest in their 80s.
Researchers believe secure relationships even help preserve brain function. Good relationships extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life as we age. We are happier and healthier when close friendships are maintained.
Sadly, many of us are not that lucky. An alarming one in five Americans report feelings of loneliness. According to the study, participants who reported feelings of loneliness experienced earlier physical decline and an earlier death than participants with strong social connections.
So what do hearing aids have to do with all this?
Hearing is one of the most basic ways we connect with others. Listening, laughing, and engaging verbally and aurally with loved ones helps form and strengthen the connections that bind relationships.
Hearing loss, on the other hand, can make talking, listening and engaging more difficult. Hearing loss is a well-known precursor to social isolation — which the Harvard study proves it negatively impacts the quality of a person’s relationships and, subsequently, their health and happiness as they age.
Can treating hearing loss help improve relationships?
Conversely, a study by the American Academy of Audiology found that using hearing aids to treat hearing loss improves the health of our relationships at home and work. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids can positively impact overall health. Hearing aid wearers report increased self-confidence and socialization.
Hearing our best improves communication with the important people in our lives, and good communication is one key to maintaining quality relationships over the course of our lifetime.
So, if you want to increase your chances of being happy and healthy as you age, put aside your worries about how hearing aids might look, and invest in yourself by treating your hearing loss and maintain the quality of your relationships.