COM­MEN­TARY Sen­sory im­pair­ments can af­fect mind, mood

The Covington News - - Health & Wellness -

Loss of acu­ity in hear­ing and vi­sion is a com­mon ac­com­pa­ni­ment to ag­ing. This grad­ual on­set of sen­sory de­pri­va­tion can have im­por­tant ef­fects on the brain, in­clud­ing an ad­verse im­pact on mind, mood and me­mory. Sen­sory im­pair­ment ad­versely im­pacts ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing in­ter­ac­tion with en­vi­ron­ment, re­la­tion­ships, ac­tiv­i­ties and feel­ings of self­worth. It can lead to de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, so­cial iso­la­tion and many other prob­lems.

In April, a study pre­sented at the In­ter­na­tional Congress Se­ries in Lon­don found that among peo­ple with se­ri­ously im­paired vi­sion, 22 per­cent ex­hib­ited signs of ma­jor de­pres­sion, char­ac­ter­ized by low mood last­ing two weeks or more with symp­toms such as per­va­sive sad­ness, loss of in­ter­est in ac­tiv­i­ties once en­joyed, feel­ings of worth­less­ness, changes in ap­petite and sleep pat­terns, ag­i­ta­tion, fa­tigue and some­times sui­ci­dal thoughts. A Na­tional Coun­cil of Ag­ing study of peo­ple with hear­ing loss found that among in­di­vid­u­als with un­treated im­pair­ment, up to 30 per­cent re­ported ma­jor de­pres­sion and up to 17 per­cent re­ported suf­fer­ing anx­i­ety in the pre­ced­ing year.

Al­though the rea­sons for change are not clear, a cor­re­la­tion has been found be­tween hear­ing and vi­sion loss and cog­ni­tive and me­mory im­pair­ment. A three-year study (2002-2004) mea­sur­ing age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion found a strong link be­tween vis­ual prob­lems and cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment. Sub­jects with the great­est de­gree of vis­ual im­pair­ment also had the poor­est scores on six tests de­signed to mea­sure think­ing, learn­ing and me­mory, with scores de­creas­ing as vi­sion de­creased. Re­searchers at Bran­deis Univer- sity at Waltham, Mass., com­pared peo­ple with mild-to-mod­er­ate hear­ing im­pair­ment with a con­trol group. They found that when par­tic­i­pants were read a list of 15 words and in­structed to re­mem­ber only the last three words, those with hear­ing im­pair­ment, al­though able to re­mem­ber the fi­nal word as well as con­trols, did sig­nif­i­cantly worse at re­mem­ber­ing the other two words.

If you have no se­ri­ous im­pair­ment, be proac­tive by get­ting reg­u­lar check­ups and tak­ing pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures: pro­tect your eyes from ul­tra­vi­o­let ra­di­a­tion, use eye pro­tec­tion when op­er­at­ing ma­chin­ery that may in­flict in­jury from fly­ing ob­jects or sparks, pro­tect your hears by avoid­ing loud noise sources and keep­ing ear­phone vol­umes low, main­tain health by giv­ing up smok­ing and man­ag­ing con­di­tions such as di­a­betes and high blood pres­sure that can dam­age eyes and/or ears, eat a healthy diet and ask your doc­tor about tak­ing sup­ple­ments thought to pro­tect eye­sight (bil­berry) and pre­vent hear­ing prob­lems (ginko biloba and vin­poce­tine).

To cope with ex­ist­ing im­pair­ment, rec­og­nize that you or a loved one may need as­sis­tance, try to ac­cept help from oth­ers and take ad­van­tage of de­vices such as mag­ni­fy­ing lenses and hear­ing aids that can help en­sure in­de­pen­dence. Eye­Care Amer­i­can, the Amer­i­can Academy of Au­di­ol­ogy and Vi­sion USA of­fer sup­port and in­for­ma­tion for peo­ple cop­ing with hear­ing and vi­sion im­pair­ment.

Peggy Nolen

Colum­nist

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