It’s a regrettable fact of life that loss of hearing is part of the aging process. Roughly 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but many people choose to just ignore it because it’s a normal part of getting older. 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 one-third of seniors consider hearing loss to be a minor problem that can be dealt with easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a worry. However, those costs can increase astronomically when you take into account the serious side effects and conditions that are caused by ignoring hearing loss. Here are the most prevalent 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 blame their fatigue on things like getting older or a side-effect of medication. In truth, as your brain tries to compensate for sound it can’t hear, you’re left feeling depleted. Imagine you are taking an exam such as the SAT where your brain is totally focused on processing the task at hand. You will likely feel drained once you’re done. The same thing happens when you struggle to hear: during conversations, your brain is trying to fill in the blanks – which is often made much more difficult when there is a lot of background noise – and as you attempt to process the information, you spend precious energy. Your overall health can be affected by this type of chronic exhaustion and you can be left so tired you can’t take good care of yourself, leaving things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals hard to accomplish.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Even though these connections are correlations instead of causations, it’s believed by researchers 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 like comprehension and memory. The decline of brain function is accelerated and there is a loss of grey matter with the increased draw on cognitive capacity that comes with aging. The process of cognitive decline can be reduced and seniors 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 cognitive and hearing experts can work together to identify 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 those who ignored their hearing problem had mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their social and emotional well-being. The link between hearing loss and mental health problems makes sense since people with hearing loss often have trouble communicating with others in family or social scenarios. This can result in depression after suffering from persistent feelings of isolation. If left untreated, anxiety and even paranoia can appear due to these feelings of isolation and exclusion. Hearing aids have been shown to help in the recovery from depression, though anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should consult with a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part quits working as it should, it could have a negative impact on another seemingly unrelated part. This is the case with our hearts and ears. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow easily from the heart to the inner ear, hearing loss will occur. 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. In order to determine whether loss of hearing 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 result in severe or possibly even fatal consequences.
Please reach out to us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above or if you suffer from hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.