We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of challenging or unpleasant chores in favor of something more enjoyable or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will eventually get around to whatever we’re currently working hard to avoid.

Usually, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might plan to clean out the basement, for example, by throwing out or donating the things we never use. A clean basement sounds good, but the work of actually lugging things to the donation center is not so pleasant. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to find countless alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so harmless, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright hazardous. While no one’s idea of a good time is getting a hearing test, the latest research reveals that untreated hearing loss has significant physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you need to start with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a recognizable analogy: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you understand what occurs just after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle size and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t regularly make use of your muscles, they get weaker.

The same thing occurs with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sound, your ability to process auditory information grows weaker. Researchers even have a label for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”

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

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which brings about a host of additional disorders current research is continuing to unearth. For instance, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University discovered that those with hearing loss experience a 40% decline in cognitive function in comparison to those with regular hearing, together with an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

General cognitive decline also results in severe mental and social consequences. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) established that those with neglected hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to take part in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

So what begins as an inconvenience—not being able to hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that impacts all aspects of your health. The chain of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an elevated risk of developing serious medical conditions.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is just as encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one last time. As soon as the cast comes off, you start working out and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recoup your muscle mass and strength.

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

Are you ready to experience the same improvement?