It’s an unfortunate fact of life that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Roughly 38 million people in the United States have some form of hearing loss, but because hearing loss is expected as we get older, many people decide to leave it unchecked. Neglecting hearing loss, however, can have serious negative side effects on a person’s entire well-being beyond their inability to hear.
Why do so many people refuse to get help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens think of hearing loss as a minor problem that can be handled easily enough, while more than half of the respondents cited cost as a worry. When you consider the conditions and serious side effects caused by ignoring hearing loss, however, the costs can increase astronomically. Here are the most common negative effects of ignoring hearing loss.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. Instead, they will attribute tiredness to several other factors, like slowing down due to aging or a side-effect of medication. In actuality, as your brain tries to make up for sound it doesn’t hear, you’re left feeling depleted. Visualize a task where you have to be completely concentrated like taking the SAT test. When you’re done, you probably feel exhausted. The same thing happens when you struggle to hear: your brain is doing work to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is generally made even harder when there is a lot of background noise – and spends valuable energy just trying to digest the conversation. This type of chronic exhaustion can affect your health by leaving you too run down to take care of yourself, leaving things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals hard to accomplish.
Several studies by Johns Hopkins University linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Although these links are correlations instead of causations, it’s thought by researchers the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less you’ll have to dedicate to other things like memorization and comprehension. And as people get older, the additional drain on cognitive resources can accelerate the decrease of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. The process of cognitive decline can be slowed down and senior citizens can stay mentally tuned by the regular exchange of ideas through conversation. The future for researchers is promising due to the discovery of a connection between the decline in cognitive function and hearing loss, since cognitive and hearing experts can team up to determine the causes and formulate treatment options for these ailments.
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 people who ignored their hearing condition had mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their emotional and social well-being. The link between hearing loss and mental health issues makes sense since those with loss of hearing commonly have trouble communicating with others in social or family scenarios. This can bring on depression after suffering from prolonged feelings of seclusion. Because of these feelings of exclusion and solitude, anxiety and even paranoia can be the result, particularly if neglected. Hearing aids have been shown to help in the recovery from depression, however, anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should consult with a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part quits functioning the way it’s supposed to, it could have a negative effect on another apparently unrelated part. This is the case with our ears and hearts. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow freely from the heart to the inner ear, loss of hearing will occur. Another disease that can affect the inner ear’s nerve ending, and is also associated with heart disease is diabetes which causes messages from the ear to the brain to be scrambled. Those who have noticed some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should seek advice from both a hearing and cardiac specialist to determine whether the hearing loss is indeed caused by a heart condition, since ignoring the symptoms could lead to serious, possibly fatal repercussions.
Please contact us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects detailed above or if you have loss of hearing so we can help you live a healthier life. Schedule your appointment now.