May is not only Better Hearing and Speech Month, but it’s also Mental Health Awareness Month. While it’s no surprise with so many worthy causes that there would be some overlap, this one in particular feels like more than just a coincidence.

Better Hearing Month raises awareness about hearing health and communication disorders. It’s about educating the public about the importance of hearing health and how hearing loss can impact our well-being. Hearing loss has been linked to health concerns like cardiovascular issues and increased risk of falls. But the impact hearing loss can have on our brains is perhaps the most alarming. Hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and even developing dementia. It’s that direct link from hearing health to mental health that made this calendar coincidence so fitting.

When people are disconnected from the world around them — when they can’t hear their loved one on the phone, when they can’t engage with friends in a loud restaurant — they may be forced to take a backseat to life. That backseat can be a lonely place. Even before the pandemic, U.S. health officials were worried about a loneliness epidemic. The past 16 months has only made it worse. By 2050, 2.5 billion people will have some level of hearing loss. This loneliness epidemic will get worse if we don’t act.

With more research linking hearing loss to loneliness and mental health, the hearing industry has a duty to be part of a greater solution. Dr. Archelle Georgiou, Starkey’s Chief Health Officer,  is leading the conversation around the link between loneliness and hearing loss. As a doctor, she knows that loneliness can have the same negative health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. As a daughter, she’s seen the impact of loneliness first hand with her own mother. Dr. Georgiou says the first step to finding a solution to this avoidable problem is to see a hearing health professional to get your hearing evaluated. Knowing more about your particular hearing loss can help you find the right solution — connecting you back to the world around you.

Inside the ear is one of the best barometers for both physical and mental well-being. The ear is the new wrist. It is the gateway to better health and wellness. With our global introduction of Livio AI technology in the fall of 2018, we brought social engagement and activity tracking to the hearing aid. That was just the beginning. The Starkey engineering team and research audiologists are working on features I can’t even talk about yet that will know more about your physical and mental health than you do. This technology will help in the fight against loneliness.

At Starkey, we are leading the way, building caring products that connect people to people through better hearing. Our work helps people not only hear better, but live better, too.