Loss of hearing is a normal part of getting older, unfortunately. Approximately 38 million people in the US suffer from some form of hearing loss, but since hearing loss is expected as we age, many people decide to leave it unchecked. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their whole health can be negatively affected if they neglect their hearing loss.
Why do so many people refuse to get help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, More than half of senior citizens cited costs as the major concern while one third consider hearing loss as a minor issue that can be easily treated. However, those costs can increase astronomically when you factor in the significant side effects and ailments that are caused by ignoring hearing loss. Here are the most prevalent negative effects of neglecting hearing loss.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. Instead, they will attribute fatigue to a number of other factors, like slowing down due to getting older or a side-effect of medication. In reality, as your brain attempts to make up for sound it doesn’t hear, you’re left feeling fatigued. Visualize a task where you need to be totally concentrated like taking the SAT exam. After you’re finished, you most likely feel depleted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing happens: your brain is working to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is generally made even harder when there is a lot of background sound – and uses up valuable energy just attempting to process the conversation. This type of chronic fatigue can impact your health by leaving you too run down to keep yourself healthy, skipping out on things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Even though these links are not direct causations, they are correlations, researchers believe that the more cognitive resources spent trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less you’ll have to dedicate to other things like comprehension and memorization. The decline of brain function is accelerated and there is a loss of grey matter with the additional draw on cognitive capacity that comes with aging. In addition, having a frequent exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is believed to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help slow the process of cognitive decline. The future for researchers is promising due to the discovery of a connection between the decline in cognitive function and hearing loss, since hearing and cognitive specialists can work together to identify the causes and formulate treatments for these conditions.
Mental Health Issues
The National Council on the Aging conducted a study of 2,300 seniors who suffered some form of hearing loss and discovered that those who ignored their hearing condition had mental health troubles like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their social and emotional well-being. The connection between hearing loss and mental health problems makes sense since people with hearing loss often have trouble communicating with others in family or social situations. This can result in depression after suffering from persistent feelings of seclusion. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can appear due to these feelings of loneliness and exclusion. It’s been demonstrated that recovery from depression is helped by wearing hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be consulted if you suffer from paranoia, depression, or anxiety.
All the different parts of our bodies are one interconnected machine – an apparently unconnected part can be impacted negatively if a different part stops functioning as it is supposed to. This is the case with our hearts and ears. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow easily from the heart to the inner ear, hearing loss will happen. Diabetes, which is also linked to heart disease, can impact the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause messages sent from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. Individuals who have detected some amount of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should contact both a cardiac and hearing specialist to find out whether the hearing loss is indeed triggered by a heart condition, since ignoring the symptoms could lead to serious, potentially fatal consequences.
If you have loss of hearing or are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above, please contact us so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.