It’s a regrettable fact of life that loss of hearing is part of getting older. Approximately 38 million people in the US suffer from some form of hearing loss, though because hearing loss is expected as we age, many people choose to leave it unchecked. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their entire health can be negatively impacted if they neglect their hearing loss.
Why do so many people decide to just live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens consider hearing loss to be a minor issue that can be handled easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a concern. However, those costs can increase astronomically when you take into account the significant side effects and conditions that are caused by neglecting hearing loss. Neglecting hearing loss has the following negative side effects.
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 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 drained. Visualize a task where you have to be completely focused like taking the SAT exam. When you’re done, you likely feel drained. The same thing happens 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 trying to process the discussion. This type of chronic fatigue can affect your health by leaving you too run down to take care of yourself, leaving things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals difficult to accomplish.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Even though these connections are correlations instead of causations, it’s thought by researchers the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less the resources available for other things such as comprehension and memory. The decline of brain function is sped up and there is a loss of grey matter with the increased draw on cognitive capacity that comes with growing older. Also, having a regular exchange of information and ideas, often through conversation, is thought to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help reduce the process of cognitive decay. The fact that a link was discovered between loss of hearing and a decline in cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since the causes of these conditions can be pinpointed and treatments can be formulated 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 those who neglected their hearing condition had mental health troubles like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their emotional and social well-being. Since trouble communicating with others in family and social situations is typical for those with hearing loss, the connection between mental health issues and hearing loss makes sense. This can result in depression after suffering from prolonged feelings of seclusion. Due to these feelings of exclusion and solitude, anxiety and even paranoia can be the consequence, especially if left untreated. Hearing aids have been shown to help in the recovery from depression, though anyone who has depression, anxiety, or paranoia should talk to with a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part stops functioning as it should, it could have a negative effect on another seemingly unrelated part. This is the situation 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 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. In order to determine whether loss of hearing is caused by heart disease or diabetes, if you have a family history of those illnesses consult both a hearing expert and a cardiac specialist because ignoring the symptoms can cause serious or possibly even fatal consequences.
If you have loss of hearing or are having any of the negative effects outlined above, please reach out to us so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.