It’s an unfortunate fact of life that hearing loss is part of getting older. Roughly 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but many people choose to just ignore it because it’s a normal part of getting older. Neglecting hearing loss, however, can have serious negative side effects on a person’s overall well-being beyond their inability to hear.
Why do so many people resist getting help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens think of hearing loss as a minor issue that can be handled easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a concern. However, those costs can rise astronomically when you take into account the significant side effects and conditions that are triggered by ignoring hearing loss. Here are the most prevalent negative effects of neglecting 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 aging or a side-effect of medication. The truth is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling exhausted. Visualize a task where you have to be totally concentrated like taking the SAT exam. After you’re finished, you likely feel depleted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing happens: your brain is doing work to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is often made even more difficult when there is a lot of background noise – and as you attempt to process the information, you use up precious energy. Your overall health can be affected by this type of chronic exhaustion and you can be left so run down you keep yourself healthy, skipping out on things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals.
Several studies by Johns Hopkins University linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Even though these connections are not direct causations, they are correlations, it’s thought by researchers that the more cognitive resources expended trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less the resources available for other things like comprehension and memory. The decrease of brain function is accelerated and there is a loss of grey matter with the additional draw on cognitive capacity that comes with growing older. Additionally, having a regular exchange of information and ideas, often through conversation, is thought to help seniors stay mentally tuned and can help reduce the process of cognitive decline. The future for researchers is promising due to the discovery of a connection between the decline in cognitive function and loss of hearing, since cognitive and hearing specialists can work together to pinpoint the causes and develop treatments for these ailments.
Issues With Your Mental Health
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 health more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. The link between hearing loss and mental health issues makes sense since those with loss of hearing often have difficulty communicating with others in family or social scenarios. This can cause feelings of isolation, which can eventually lead to depression. Because of these feelings of exclusion and isolation, anxiety and even paranoia can be the consequence, particularly if left untreated. Hearing aids have been shown to aid in the recovery from depression, though anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should seek advice from 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 apparently unrelated part. This is the situation with our ears and hearts. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow freely from the heart to the inner ear, loss of hearing will happen. Diabetes, which is also linked to heart disease, can impact the inner ear’s nerve endings and scramble messages from the ear to the brain. In order to determine whether loss of hearing is caused by heart disease or diabetes, if you have a family history of those illnesses contact both a hearing expert and a cardiac specialist because neglecting the symptoms can cause severe or possibly even fatal repercussions.
If you suffer from hearing loss or are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above, feel free to reach out to us so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.