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We all put things off, regularly talking ourselves out of strenuous or uncomfortable chores in favor of something more pleasurable or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will eventually get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.

Often times, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might desire to clear out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the things we rarely use. A clean basement sounds good, but the work of actually lugging items to the donation center is not so satisfying. In the concern of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to notice innumerable alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so innocent, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, recent research reveals that untreated hearing loss has significant physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you need to begin with the impact of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a popular comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know about what happens just after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle mass and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t frequently use your muscles, they get weaker.

The same thing happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sounds, your capacity to process auditory information grows weaker. Scientists even have a name for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”

Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but persisted to not make use of the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get increasingly weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you ignore your hearing loss, the a smaller amount of sound stimulation your brain gets, and the more impaired your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which produces a variety of different complications present research is continuing to reveal. For example, a study directed by Johns Hopkins University discovered that those with hearing loss encounter a 40% drop in cognitive function compared to those with normal hearing, in conjunction with an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Generalized cognitive decline also results in dangerous mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) revealed that those with neglected hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to get involved in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.

So what starts out as an inconvenience—not being able to hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that affects all aspects of your health. The chain of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately leads to social isolation, wounded relationships, and an increased risk of developing major medical ailments.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg example one more time. Immediately after the cast comes off, you begin exercising and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again applies to hearing. If you heighten the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can restore your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, improved psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, according to The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in virtually every area of their lives.

Are you ready to experience the same improvement?