It’s an unfortunate fact of life that hearing loss is part of getting older. Approximately 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, though since hearing loss is expected as we get older, many people choose to ignore it. Ignoring hearing loss, however, can have severe negative side effects on a person’s entire well-being beyond their inability to hear.
Why do so many people resist getting help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of seniors consider hearing loss to be a minor issue that can be managed easily enough, while more than half of the respondents cited cost as a worry. However, those costs can increase astronomically when you factor in the significant side effects and conditions that are brought on by ignoring hearing loss. Here are the most common negative effects of ignoring hearing loss.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. Alternatively, 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 tries to make up for sound it doesn’t hear, you’re left feeling drained. Imagine you are taking an exam like the SAT where your brain is totally concentrated on processing the task at hand. Once you’re done, you probably feel exhausted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing happens: during conversations, your brain is trying to fill in the blanks – and when there is a lot of background noise this is even more overwhelming – and uses up precious energy just trying to digest the discussion. This type of chronic fatigue can affect your health by leaving you too tired to keep yourself healthy, 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. Even though these links are correlations instead of causations, researchers believe that the more cognitive resources spent trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less there are to dedicate to other things like memorization and comprehension. And as people get older, the increased draw on cognitive resources can accelerate the decrease of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. The process of cognitive decline can be reduced and seniors can stay mentally tuned by the regular exchange of ideas through conversation. The discovery of a link between hearing loss and a decline in cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since the causes of these conditions can be determined and treatment options can be formulated when cognitive and hearing experts team up.
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 paranoia, anxiety, and depression negatively affected the emotional health more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. Since trouble communicating with others in social and family situations is normal for those with hearing loss, the connection between mental health issues and hearing loss makes sense. This can result in depression after suffering from persistent feelings of seclusion. Due to these feelings of exclusion and solitude, anxiety and even paranoia can be the result, particularly if neglected. Hearing aids have been proven to assist in the recovery from depression, however, anyone who has depression, anxiety, or paranoia should seek advice from with a mental health professional.
All the different parts of our bodies are one interconnected machine – an evidently unconnected part can be impacted negatively if another part quits functioning as it should. This is the case with our hearts and ears. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow freely from the heart to the inner ear, hearing loss will occur. Another disease that can affect the inner ear’s nerve ending, and is also connected to heart disease is diabetes which causes messages from the ear to the brain to become mixed up. In order to find out whether hearing loss is caused by heart disease or diabetes, if you have a family history of those illnesses consult both a hearing expert and a cardiac specialist because neglecting the symptoms can lead to severe or even fatal repercussions.
If you have hearing loss or are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above, please contact us so we can help you live a healthier life. Schedule your appointment now.