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 since hearing loss is expected as we age, many decide to ignore it. Neglecting hearing loss, however, can have severe negative side effects on a person’s entire health beyond their inability to hear.
Why do many people decide to just live with 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 respondents cited cost as a worry. However, those costs can rise astronomically when you take into account the significant side effects and ailments that are brought on 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 such as getting older or a side-effect of medication. In actuality, as your brain attempts to compensate for sound it doesn’t hear, you’re left feeling exhausted. Imagine you are taking a test like the SAT where your brain is completely focused on processing the task at hand. You will likely feel exhausted once you finish. The same thing occurs when you struggle to hear: during conversations, your brain is working to fill in the blanks – and if there is a lot of background sound this is even more overwhelming – and spends valuable energy just attempting to process the conversation. Your overall health can be affected by this type of chronic exhaustion and you can be left so run down you can’t take good care of yourself, passing up on things like cooking healthy meals or going to the gym.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Although these links are correlations instead of causations, 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 dedicate to other things like comprehension and memorization. And as people get older, the additional drain on cognitive resources can accelerate the decline of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. Additionally, having a regular exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is thought to help seniors stay mentally fit and can help delay the process of cognitive decline. The fact that a link was discovered between loss of hearing and a loss of cognitive functions is promising for future research since hearing and cognitive experts can team up to identify the causes and formulate treatment options for these conditions.
Issues With Your Mental Health
The National Council on the Aging conducted a study of 2,300 seniors who suffered some form of hearing loss and discovered that those who ignored their hearing condition had mental health troubles like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively impacted their social and emotional well-being. The link between loss of hearing and mental health issues makes sense since people with hearing loss commonly have difficulty communicating with others in family or social situations. This can lead to feelings of isolation, which can eventually result in depression. Due to these feelings of exclusion and solitude, anxiety and even paranoia can be the result, particularly if neglected. Hearing aids have been shown to help in the recovery from depression, however, anyone who has depression, anxiety, or paranoia should consult with a mental health professional.
All the parts of our bodies are one interconnected machine – an evidently unconnected part can be impacted negatively if a different part quits functioning as it should. This is the case with our ears and hearts. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow easily from the heart to the inner ear, hearing loss will happen. 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. People who have noticed some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should seek advice from both a cardiac and hearing specialist to find out whether the hearing loss is indeed caused by a heart condition, since ignoring the symptoms could lead to serious, potentially fatal repercussions.
Please contact us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects detailed above or if you have hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.