Hearing loss is a normal part of the aging process, unfortunately. Approximately 38 million people in the US suffer from some form of hearing loss, though since 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 entire 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 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 increase astronomically when you factor in the serious side effects and conditions that are brought on by ignoring hearing loss. Here are the most prevalent negative effects of ignoring 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 fact is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to make up for it, leaving you feeling drained. Visualize a task where you need to be completely concentrated like taking the SAT exam. You will probably feel exhausted once you’re done. When you struggle to hear, the same thing happens: during conversations, your brain is working to fill in the blanks – and when there is a lot of background noise this is even more difficult – and spends precious energy just attempting to digest the conversation. This type of persistent exhaustion can impact your health by leaving you too tired to take care of yourself, 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 links are correlations instead of causations, researchers think 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 memory and comprehension. And as people age, the greater drain on cognitive resources can speed up the decline of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. Also, having a frequent exchange of information and ideas, often through conversation, is believed to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help delay the process of cognitive decline. The future for researchers is encouraging due to the discovery of a link between the decrease in cognitive function and hearing loss, since the causes of these conditions can be determined and treatment options can be formulated when cognitive and hearing experts 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 people who ignored their hearing condition had mental health troubles like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their social and emotional well-being. Since difficulty communicating with others in social and family situations is common for those with hearing loss, the connection between mental health issues and hearing loss seems logical. This can lead to depression after suffering from prolonged feelings of seclusion. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can appear due to these feelings of loneliness and exclusion. It’s been shown that recovery from depression is helped by wearing hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be contacted if you have depression, anxiety, or paranoia.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part quits working the way it’s supposed to, it might have a negative impact on another seemingly unrelated part. This is the case with our ears and hearts. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow freely from the heart to the inner ear, hearing loss will occur. Diabetes, which is also linked to heart disease, can impact the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause messages sent from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. In order to find out whether hearing loss 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 ignoring the symptoms can cause serious or possibly even fatal repercussions.
If you suffer from loss of hearing or are having any of the negative effects outlined above, please reach out to us so we can help you live a healthier life. Schedule your appointment now.