It’s an unfortunate fact of life that loss of hearing is part of getting older. Roughly 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but a lot of people choose to just neglect it because it’s a normal part of getting older. 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 refuse to get help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, More than half of senior citizens cited costs as the major concern while one third consider hearing loss as a minor issue that can be easily handled. When you consider the conditions and significant 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. They are often in denial and will blame their fatigue on things like getting older or a side-effect of medication. The reality is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling drained. Visualize a task where you have to be totally focused like taking the SAT exam. You will likely feel depleted once you finish. The same thing happens when you struggle to hear: during conversations, your brain is trying to fill in the blanks – which is often made even harder when there is a lot of background noise – and uses up valuable energy just trying to digest the conversation. This type of persistent fatigue can affect your health by leaving you too tired to keep yourself healthy, leaving things like cooking healthy meals or going to the gym 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, 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 such as comprehension and memory. The decrease of brain function is accelerated and there is a loss of grey matter with the additional draw on cognitive ability that comes with getting older. In addition, having a frequent exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is believed to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help reduce the process of cognitive decline. The discovery of a link between loss of hearing and a decline in cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since cognitive and hearing experts can work together to pinpoint the causes and formulate treatment options for these conditions.
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 link between hearing loss and mental health issues makes sense since people with hearing loss commonly have difficulty communicating with others in family or social situations. This can lead to feelings of seclusion, which can eventually lead to depression. If left untreated, anxiety and even paranoia can surface due to these feelings of loneliness and exclusion. It’s been shown that recovery from depression is helped by hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be contacted if you suffer from depression, anxiety, or paranoia.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part stops 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. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow freely from the heart to the inner ear, hearing loss will happen. Diabetes, which is also linked to heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause messages sent from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. Individuals who have noticed some level of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should consult with both a cardiac and hearing specialist to find out whether the hearing loss is indeed caused by a heart condition, since ignoring the symptoms could lead to serious, possibly fatal consequences.
Please contact us if you are having any of the negative effects listed above or if you suffer from loss of hearing so we can help you live a healthier life. Schedule your appointment now.