We all put things off, routinely talking ourselves out of strenuous or unpleasant tasks in favor of something more pleasing or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will eventually get around to whatever we’re presently working to avoid.
Sometimes, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might hope to clean out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the items we never use. A clean basement sounds great, but the process of actually hauling items to the donation center is not so satisfying. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to notice countless alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.
In other cases, procrastination is not so benign, and when it pertains to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, recent research indicates that untreated hearing loss has serious 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 well-known comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what happens just after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle mass and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t regularly make use of your muscles, they get weaker.
The same thing takes place with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sounds, your ability to process auditory information gets weaker. Researchers even have a term for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”
Returning to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but continued to not use the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get steadily weaker. The same occurs with your brain; the longer you go with 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 results in a variety of additional disorders the newest research is continuing to uncover. For example, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that those with hearing loss encounter a 40% drop in cognitive function when compared to those with normal hearing, together with an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Generalized cognitive decline also causes major mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) established that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.
So what begins as an annoyance—not having the capability hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that disturbs all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which leads to general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, wounded relationships, and an increased risk of developing major medical ailments.
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. Immediately after the cast comes off, you start exercising and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.
The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you boost the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can restore your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, improved psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, as reported by The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in almost every area of their lives.