An elderly person with an out-dated hearing aid saying “what’s that sonny”, is what many people think of when hearing loss is mentioned. The fact is, hearing loss has increased sharply among all age groups and it impacts more than just your ability to hear. If it goes untreated it can cause surprising repercussions. It’s worth getting your hearing examined based only on these four.
1. Cognitive Decline
There is an association between hearing loss and other health problems, although you may not have previously been aware of them. Brain health and cognitive function are the most serious examples. Some conditions generally associated with aging are really caused by hearing loss.
The brain has a fantastic ability to adapt to sensory changes, but that backfires when it comes to hearing loss. The brain can understand sound that is processed through the inner ear when hearing is normal. It’s that mechanism of hearing that enables you to recognize the difference between the music coming from your car radio and the music the ice cream truck plays as it heads down your street.
Every microsecond, the brain experiences sound even if you’re not aware of it. Air hissing in through a vent and other ambient sounds are around you even if you are sitting in a quiet room. Your brain interprets this as a sound you don’t need to know about, so you don’t even notice it.
This stimulus is something the brain comes to count on. Suddenly, when there is loss of hearing, the brain doesn’t get the same quality or quantity of sound. It strains to hear the missing sound believing it should still be present. The absence of stimuli causes the brain to stress leading to cognitive decline and a higher risk of dementia. Memory loss and cognitive decline are forty percent more common in seniors with hearing loss, according to studies. Even more compelling is the fact that people have been shown to improve their cognitive functions if they suffer from hearing loss and invest in hearing aids.
2. Gut Problems
That seems like a stretch, but it’s not. Side effects related to changes you experience due to hearing loss are:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
The constant stress can manifest intestinal problems like:
- Abdominal cramps
As the discomfort increases, you could end up with a more serious intestinal condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
3. Mental Health Concerns
More than likely, the most noticeable side effect is the impact hearing loss has on your mental health. A 2014 study found that a decline in hearing correlates to an increase in depression in adults below the age of 70.
People with hearing loss have a tough time communicating with others, according to JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery, and that likely accounts for the depression. The research shows that depression is more pronounced in women between the ages of 18 to 69.
Over the years, many mental health conditions have been connected to untreated hearing loss such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of focus
People stop trying if they can’t communicate effectively and that leads to depression and psychological stress.
4. Troubled Relationships
Your physical and mental health are not the only things that are impacted by hearing loss. People with poor hearing statistically make less money. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found individuals with untreated hearing loss make on average 20,000 dollars less a year than their hearing colleagues.
Hearing loss creates problems in personal relationships, too. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents with hearing loss had trouble maintaining relationships. The survey showed:
- Most women indicated that hearing loss was a significant concern when communicating with friends and family members.
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that hearing loss caused relationship problems
- Thirty-five percent of men reported they agreed to treatment for hearing loss because their spouse or partner pressured them into it
- Thirty-seven percent of women interviewed reported being irritated when someone with hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
How you feel about yourself and the world and the state of your health are affected by hearing loss. It also has an effect on your relationships. When you get hearing aids many of these side effects go away and that’s good news. Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out what option works best for you.