It’s an unfortunate truth that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Approximately 38 million individuals suffer from hearing loss in the U . S ., though many people decide to ignore it because they consider it as just a part of getting older. Disregarding hearing loss, however, can have serious negative side effects on a person’s over-all well-being beyond their inability to hear.
Why is the decision to simply live with hearing loss one that many people choose? Based on an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens consider hearing loss to be a minor concern that can be handled fairly easily, while cost was a concern for more than half of people who participated in the study. The costs of ignoring hearing loss, though, can become a great deal higher as a result of complications and side effects that come with leaving it untreated. Here are the most prevalent adverse effects of ignoring hearing loss.
The majority of people won’t immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. They will say, instead, that they are slowing down due to the side-effects of a medication or because they’re getting older. But in reality, if you need to work extra hard to hear, it can deplete your physical resources. Imagine you are taking an exam like the SAT where your brain is entirely focused on processing the task at hand. You would most likely feel quite drained when you’re done. When you’re struggling to hear, it’s a similar situation: when there are blanks spots in conversation, your brain has to work hard to substitute the missing information – which is often made even more difficult when there’s lots of background noise – and simply attempting to process information uses precious energy. This kind of chronic fatigue can affect your health by leaving you too tired to care for yourself, skipping out on things like going to the gym or cooking wholesome meals.
Hearing loss has been linked, by a number of Johns Hopkins University studies, to reduced cognitive functions , increased loss of brain tissue, and dementia. While these links are correlations, not causations, it’s believed by researchers that, once again, the more frequently you need to fill in the conversational blanks, which uses up cognitive resources, the less there are to focus on other things like memorization and comprehension. And as people get older, the increased draw on mental resources can accelerate the decline of other brain functions and contribute to loss of gray matter. Additionally, engaging in a regular exchange of ideas and information, usually through conversation, is thought to help seniors stay mentally fit and can help decrease the process of cognitive decline. The fact that a link between cognitive function and hearing loss was found is encouraging for future research since hearing and cognitive specialists can collaborate to narrow down the factors and develop treatment options for these conditions.
Mental Health Problems
The National Council on the Aging performed a study of 2,300 seniors who were dealing with some form of hearing loss and found that those who neglected their condition were more likely to also suffer from mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their social and emotional happiness. It makes sense that there’s a link between mental health and hearing loss issues since, in family and social situations, people who cope with hearing loss have a difficult time communicating with others. Eventually, feelings of isolation could develop into depression. If left untreated, anxiety and even paranoia can appear due to these feelings of isolation and exclusion. Hearing aids have been shown to help in the recovery from depression, though anybody suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should talk to a mental health professional.
If one portion of your body, which is an interconnected machine, stops working properly, it could have an impact on apparently unrelated bodily functions. This is the situation with our hearts and ears. For instance, hearing loss will happen when blood does not easily flow from the heart to the inner ear. Another condition linked to heart disease is diabetes which also impacts the nerve endings of the inner ear and sometimes causes the brain to get scrambled signals. If heart disease is ignored severe or even possibly fatal repercussions can occur. So if you have detected some hearing loss and you have a history of diabetes or heart disease in your family you should consult both a hearing and a cardiac specialist in order to determine if your hearing loss is connected to a heart condition.
If you want to start living a healthier life, reach out to us so we can help you address any adverse effects of hearing loss that you may suffer.