It’s a regrettable fact of life that loss of hearing is part of getting older. Roughly 38 million people in the United States have some form of hearing loss, but many people decide to just ignore it because it’s a normal part of aging. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their whole health can be negatively impacted if they neglect their hearing loss.
Why do so many people refuse to get help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, More than half of senior citizens cited costs as the major worry while one third consider hearing loss as a small issue that can be easily handled. When you factor in the conditions and significant side effects caused by ignoring hearing loss, however, the costs can increase dramatically. Here are the most prevalent negative effects of neglecting hearing loss.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. Alternatively, they will attribute fatigue to several different factors, such as slowing down due to getting older or a side-effect of medication. The reality is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to make up for it, leaving you feeling tired. Imagine you are taking an exam such as the SAT where your brain is completely focused on processing the task at hand. When you’re done, you most likely feel drained. When you struggle to hear, the same thing occurs: during conversations, your brain is trying to fill in the blanks – which is often made much harder when there is a lot of background sound – and as you try to process the information, you deplete precious energy. Your overall health can be impacted by this type of persistent fatigue and you can be left so run down you keep yourself healthy, leaving things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals hard to accomplish.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Even though these connections are not direct causations, they are correlations, it’s believed by researchers 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 comprehension and memorization. The decline of brain function is accelerated and there is a loss of grey matter with the increased draw on cognitive ability that comes with aging. The process of cognitive decline can be delayed and seniors can stay mentally tuned by the regular exchange of ideas through conversation. The fact that a link was discovered between hearing loss and a decline in cognitive functions is promising for future research since the causes of these conditions can be determined and treatments can be developed when cognitive and hearing experts work together.
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 people who neglected their hearing problem had mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their social and emotional well-being. The link between loss of hearing and mental health problems makes sense since those with hearing loss commonly have difficulty communicating with others in social or family situations. This can result in depression after suffering from prolonged feelings of loneliness. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can surface due to these feelings of isolation and exclusion. Hearing aids have been shown to assist in the recovery from depression, though anyone who has depression, anxiety, or paranoia should consult with a mental health professional.
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 case with our ears and hearts. Case in point, hearing loss will happen when blood does not flow easily from the heart to the inner ear. Diabetes, which is also connected to heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause messages sent from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. Individuals who have noticed some amount 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 triggered by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to severe, possibly fatal repercussions.
Please get in touch with us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects listed above or if you have hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.