It’s an unfortunate truth that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Approximately 38 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of hearing loss, though since hearing loss is anticipated as we get older, many choose to leave it unchecked. Ignoring hearing loss, though, can have major negative side effects on a person’s general well-being beyond their inability to hear.
Why is the choice to just live with hearing loss one that lots of people choose? Based on an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens think of hearing loss as a minor concern that can be handled fairly easily, while cost was a worry for more than half of those who participated in the study. The costs of ignoring hearing loss, though, can become a great deal higher due to conditions and adverse reactions that come with ignoring it. Here are the most common adverse effects of neglecting hearing loss.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. Instead, they will attribute fatigue to countless different factors, such as slowing down due to aging or a side-effect of medication. The reality is that the less you’re able to hear, the more your body struggles to compensate for it, leaving you feeling exhausted. Remember how tired you were at times in your life when your brain had to be completely focused on a task for prolonged periods of time. You would probably feel fairly depleted after you’re finished. The same situation happens when you struggle to hear: when there are missing spots in conversation, your brain needs to work hard to fill in the missing information – which is usually made even more difficult when there is a lot of background noise – and consumes valuable energy just trying to process the conversation. This type of chronic fatigue can affect your health by leaving you too tired to take care of yourself, cutting out things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals.
Decline of Cognitive Function
Hearing loss has been linked, by several Johns Hopkins University studies, to decreased brain functions , increased brain tissue loss, and dementia. While these connections are correlations, instead of causations, researchers think that, again, the more often you need to fill in the conversational blanks, which consumes cognitive resources, the less you have to give attention to other things including memorization and comprehension. And as people get older, the additional draw on cognitive resources can speed up the decline of other brain functions and worsen gray matter loss. Besides that, it’s believed that the process of mental decline can be lessened and mental wellness can be maintained by a continued exchange of ideas, normally through conversation. Luckily, cognitive specialist and hearing specialist can use the recognized connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss to collaborate to carry out research and develop treatments that are encouraging in the near future.
Concerns With Mental Health
The National Council on the Aging performed a study of 2,300 senior citizens who were dealing with some form of hearing loss and found that those who left their condition untreated were more likely to also be dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their social and emotional well-being. The connection between mental health issues and hearing loss makes sense since people who suffer from hearing loss frequently have difficulty communicating with others in family or social situations. This can lead to feelings of isolation, which can ultimately result in depression. Feelings of exclusion and separation can escalate to anxiety and even paranoia if left untreated. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you should consult a mental health professional and you also should be aware that hearing aids have been shown to help people recover from some forms of depression.
If one part of your body, which is an interconnected machine, stops working correctly, it could have an affect on seemingly unrelated bodily functions. This is the case with our hearts and ears. As a case in point, if blood flow from the heart to the inner ear is constrained, hearing loss could happen. Another condition associated with heart disease is diabetes which also has an effect on the nerve endings of the inner ear and sometimes causes the brain to receive scrambled information. If heart disease is ignored serious or even potentially fatal repercussions can happen. So if you have detected some hearing loss and you have a history of heart disease or heart disease in your family you should contact both a hearing and a cardiac specialist in order to figure out if your hearing loss is linked to a heart condition.
If you suffer from hearing loss or are experiencing any of the negative effects listed above, please contact us for a consultation so we can help you have a healthier life.