Loss of hearing is a normal part of getting older, unfortunately. 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 aging. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their overall life can be negatively impacted if they ignore their hearing loss.
Why do so many people refuse to get help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of seniors think of hearing loss as a minor issue that can be managed easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a concern. When you factor in the conditions and significant side effects caused by ignoring hearing loss, however, the costs can increase dramatically. Here are the most common negative effects of neglecting hearing loss.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. They are commonly in denial and will attribute their fatigue on things like aging or a side-effect of medication. The fact is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling tired. Visualize a task where you need to be totally focused like taking the SAT exam. You will likely feel exhausted 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 generally made much more difficult when there is a lot of background noise – and spends valuable energy just attempting to digest the conversation. This type of persistent fatigue can impact your health by leaving you too tired to take 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. While these connections are correlations instead of causations, researchers believe that the more cognitive resources spent trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less you’ll have to dedicate to other things such as comprehension and memorization. And as people get older, the increased draw on cognitive resources can accelerate the decrease of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. Additionally, 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 decay. The future for researchers is encouraging due to the discovery of a link between the decline in cognitive function and loss of hearing, since the causes of these conditions can be determined and treatment options can be developed when hearing and cognitive specialist team up.
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. Since difficulty communicating with others in social and family situations is normal for those with hearing loss, the link between mental health issues and hearing loss makes sense. This can lead to feelings of isolation, which can eventually result in depression. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can appear due to these feelings of seclusion and exclusion. Hearing aids have been proven to assist 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 stops functioning the way it’s supposed to, 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, hearing loss will occur. Another disease that can impact the inner ear’s nerve ending, and is also linked to heart disease is diabetes which causes messages from the ear to the brain to become 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 consult with both a hearing expert and a cardiac specialist because neglecting the symptoms can result in serious or possibly even fatal consequences.
Please reach out to us if you are having any of the negative effects listed above or if you have hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.