Hearing loss is a normal part of the aging process, unfortunately. Roughly 38 million people in the US suffer from some form of hearing loss, though because hearing loss is expected as we get older, many choose to ignore it. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their overall health can be negatively impacted if they ignore their hearing loss.
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 problem that can be managed easily enough, while more than half of the respondents cited cost as a concern. When you consider the conditions and significant side effects caused by ignoring hearing loss, however, the costs can go up astronomically. 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 attribute their fatigue on things like aging or a side-effect of medication. In reality, as your brain attempts to make up for sound it doesn’t hear, you’re left feeling exhausted. Imagine you are taking an exam such as the SAT where your brain is completely concentrated on processing the task at hand. You will probably feel depleted once you finish. The same thing happens when you struggle to hear: your brain is doing work to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is generally made even more difficult when there is a lot of background sound – and as you try to process the conversation, you use up valuable energy. Your overall health can be affected by this type of persistent fatigue and you can be left so run down you can’t take good care of yourself, leaving things like cooking healthy meals or going to the gym difficult to accomplish.
Several studies by Johns Hopkins University linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. While these links are not direct causations, they are correlations, researchers believe the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less there are to focus on other things such as memorization and comprehension. And as people get older, the greater drain on cognitive resources can speed up the decrease of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. Also, having a frequent exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is thought to help senior citizens stay mentally fit and can help delay the process of cognitive decay. The future for researchers is encouraging due to the discovery of a connection between the decline in cognitive function and loss of hearing, since the causes of these ailments can be identified and treatments can be formulated when hearing and cognitive specialist work together.
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 neglected their hearing condition had mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively impacted their emotional and social well-being. Since problems communicating with others in social and family situations is common for those with hearing loss, the link between mental health problems and hearing loss makes sense. This can lead to feelings of isolation, which can eventually lead to depression. Due to these feelings of exclusion and solitude, anxiety and even paranoia can be the consequence, specifically if neglected. It’s been shown that recovery from depression is helped by hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be contacted if you have paranoia, depression, or anxiety.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part stops functioning as it should, it might have a negative impact on another seemingly unrelated part. This is the situation with our ears and hearts. Case in point, hearing loss will happen when blood doesn’t flow easily from the heart to the inner ear. Another disease that can impact the inner ear’s nerve ending, and is also associated with heart disease is diabetes which causes messages from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. Individuals who have noticed some level of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should contact both a hearing and cardiac specialist to find out whether the hearing loss is indeed caused by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to severe, potentially fatal consequences.
If you suffer from loss of hearing or are having 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.