We all procrastinate, regularly talking ourselves out of stressful or unpleasant activities in favor of something more pleasant or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will eventually get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.

Sometimes, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might want to clear out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the things we rarely use. A clean basement sounds great, but the activity of actually hauling items to the donation center is not so satisfying. In the interest of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to notice myriad alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.

In other cases, procrastination is not so innocuous, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, the latest research suggests that untreated hearing loss has serious physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you have to begin with the impact of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a familiar comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what occurs just after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle mass and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t routinely make use of your muscles, they get weaker.

The same happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sounds, your ability to process auditory information grows weaker. Researchers even have a name for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”

Returning to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but persisted to not make use of the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get steadily weaker. The same occurs with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the less sound stimulation your brain gets, and the more impaired your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which creates a host of other conditions recent research is continuing to uncover. For instance, a study directed by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss experience a 40% decline in cognitive function when compared to those with regular hearing, in addition to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Generalized cognitive decline also leads to dangerous mental and social effects. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that those with untreated hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to partake in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

So what starts out as an inconvenience—not having the capability hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that impacts all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an enhanced risk of developing serious medical issues.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is just as encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg example one last time. The moment the cast comes off, you start exercising and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you regain your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you increase the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can regain your brain’s ability to process and comprehend sound. This leads to better communication, improved psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, as reported by The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in virtually every aspect of their lives.

Are you ready to accomplish the same improvement?

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