Hearing loss is a normal part of aging, unfortunately. Approximately 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, though since hearing loss is expected as we age, many decide to leave it unchecked. Ignoring hearing loss, however, can have severe negative side effects on a person’s overall health 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 half of seniors cited costs as the major concern while one third consider hearing loss as a minor problem that can be easily treated. However, those costs can increase astronomically when you factor in the serious 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. They are often in denial and will attribute their fatigue on things such as getting older or a side-effect of medication. In truth, as your brain tries to make up for sound it can’t hear, you’re left feeling depleted. Visualize a task where you need to be totally concentrated like taking the SAT test. Once you’re finished, you likely feel exhausted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing occurs: your brain is doing work to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is generally made even more difficult when there is a lot of background noise – and as you try to process the information, you spend valuable energy. Your overall health can be affected by this type of persistent fatigue and you can be left so run down you keep yourself healthy, leaving things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals difficult to accomplish.
Several studies by Johns Hopkins University linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. While these links are not direct causations, they are correlations, researchers think the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less the resources available for other things such as memory and comprehension. And as people get older, the increased drain on cognitive resources can accelerate the decrease of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. Additionally, having a regular exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is thought to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help slow the process of cognitive decline. The fact that a link was discovered between loss of hearing and a decline in cognitive functions is promising for future research since the causes of these conditions can be pinpointed and treatments can be developed when hearing and cognitive specialist work together.
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 impacted the emotional health more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. The connection between loss of hearing and mental health issues makes sense since people with loss of hearing often have trouble communicating with others in family or social scenarios. This can cause feelings of isolation, which can eventually result in depression. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can surface due to these feelings of loneliness and exclusion. It’s been shown that recovery from depression is assisted by wearing hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be contacted if you have paranoia, depression, or anxiety.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part stops working as it should, it could have a negative effect on another seemingly unrelated part. This is the situation with our hearts and ears. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow easily from the heart to the inner ear, loss of hearing 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. Those who have detected some level 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 triggered by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to severe, potentially fatal consequences.
Please reach out to us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects detailed above or if you suffer from loss of hearing so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.