It’s a regrettable fact of life that hearing loss is part of getting older. 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 choose to ignore it. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their overall life can be negatively affected if they neglect their hearing loss.
Why do so many people resist getting help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of seniors think of hearing loss as a minor problem that can be dealt with 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 neglecting hearing loss, however, the costs can rise dramatically. 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 like getting older or a side-effect of medication. The fact is that the less you are able to hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling tired. Imagine you are taking an exam such as the SAT where your brain is totally concentrated on processing the task at hand. Once you’re finished, you likely feel drained. The same thing occurs when you struggle to hear: your brain is doing work to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – and when there is a lot of background sound this is even more difficult – and burns precious energy just trying to process the discussion. Your health can be impacted by this type of persistent exhaustion and you can be left so run down you can’t take good care of yourself, skipping out on things like cooking healthy meals or going to the gym.
Several studies by Johns Hopkins University linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. While these links are correlations instead of causations, it’s believed by researchers that the more cognitive resources expended attempting to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less the resources available for other things like 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. The process of cognitive decline can be delayed 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 decrease in cognitive function and loss of hearing, since hearing and cognitive experts can team up to pinpoint the causes and formulate treatments 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 paranoia, anxiety, and depression negatively affected the emotional well being more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. The connection between loss of hearing and mental health problems makes sense since people with loss of hearing often have difficulty communicating with others in social or family situations. This can lead to feelings of seclusion, which can eventually result in depression. If left untreated, anxiety and even paranoia can appear due to these feelings of isolation and exclusion. Hearing aids have been proven to aid in the recovery from depression, however, anyone who has depression, anxiety, or paranoia should talk to with a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part quits working the way it’s supposed to, it could have a negative effect on another seemingly unrelated part. This is the case with our ears and hearts. For instance, hearing loss will take place when blood does not flow freely from the heart to the inner ear. 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 get mixed up. In order to determine whether loss of hearing is caused by heart disease or diabetes, if you have a family history of those illnesses contact both a hearing expert and a cardiac specialist because ignoring the symptoms can lead to serious or possibly even fatal repercussions.
Please reach out to 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. Make your appointment for a hearing test.