It’s an unfortunate fact of life that loss of hearing is part of the aging process. Roughly 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but because hearing loss is expected as we get older, many people decide to ignore it. 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 refuse to get help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens consider hearing loss to be a minor problem that can be handled easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a worry. However, those costs can rise astronomically when you factor in the serious side effects and ailments that are triggered by ignoring hearing loss. 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 blame their fatigue on things like getting older or a side-effect of medication. The truth is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to make up for it, leaving you feeling tired. Visualize a task where you need to be completely focused like taking the SAT exam. Once you’re done, you probably feel depleted. The same thing occurs when you struggle to hear: during conversations, your brain is working to fill in the blanks – which is often made even more difficult when there is a lot of background noise – and spends valuable energy just attempting to process the conversation. This type of chronic exhaustion 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 difficult to accomplish.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. While these links are not direct causations, they are correlations, it’s thought by researchers the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less the resources available for other things such as comprehension and memory. And as people get older, the additional draw on cognitive resources can speed up the decline of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. The process of cognitive decline can be slowed down and senior citizens can stay mentally fit by the regular exchange of ideas through conversation. The fact that a link was discovered between loss of hearing and a loss of cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since the causes of these conditions can be identified and treatments can be formulated when cognitive and hearing 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 well being more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. The connection between loss of hearing 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 proven to assist in the recovery from depression, however, anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should seek advice from with a mental health professional.
All the parts of our bodies are one interconnected machine – an apparently unconnected part can be affected negatively if a different part stops functioning as it is supposed to. 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. Diabetes, which is also associated with heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause messages sent from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. People who have detected some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should consult with both a hearing and cardiac specialist to find out whether the hearing loss is indeed triggered by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to serious, potentially fatal consequences.
If you have loss of hearing 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. Schedule your appointment now.