It’s an unfortunate fact of life that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Roughly 38 million people in the United States have some form of hearing loss, but because hearing loss is expected as we get older, many people choose to ignore it. Ignoring hearing loss, however, can have serious negative side effects on a person’s entire well-being beyond their inability to hear.
Why do so many people resist getting help for their hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens consider hearing loss to be a minor problem that can be handled easily enough, while more than half of the respondents cited cost as a concern. When you factor in the conditions and significant side effects caused by ignoring hearing loss, however, the costs can increase astronomically. Ignoring 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 blame their fatigue on things such as getting older or a side-effect of medication. The truth is that the less you are able to hear, the more your body works to make up for it, leaving you feeling drained. Imagine you are taking an exam such as the SAT where your brain is totally concentrated on processing the task at hand. You will likely feel exhausted once you’re done. The same thing occurs when you struggle to hear: your brain is working to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is often made much harder when there is a lot of background sound – and uses up valuable energy just attempting to process the discussion. This type of chronic exhaustion can affect your health by leaving you too tired to 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. Although these links are not direct causations, they are correlations, researchers believe 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 like 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 getting older. The process of cognitive decline can be slowed down and senior citizens can stay mentally fit by the regular exchange of ideas through conversation. The future for researchers is encouraging due to the discovery of a connection between the decline in cognitive function and hearing loss, since hearing and cognitive experts can team up to pinpoint the causes and develop treatments for these ailments.
Mental Health Issues
The National Council on the Aging conducted a study of 2,300 seniors who suffered some form of hearing loss and discovered that paranoia, anxiety, and depression negatively impacted the emotional well being more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. Since trouble communicating with others in family and social situations is normal for those with hearing loss, the link between mental health problems and hearing loss seems logical. This can cause feelings of isolation, which can eventually result in depression. Because of these feelings of exclusion and isolation, anxiety and even paranoia can be the result, specifically if neglected. It’s been demonstrated that recovery from depression is helped by wearing hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be consulted if you have paranoia, depression, or anxiety.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part quits working as it should, it might have a negative impact on another apparently unrelated part. This is the situation with our ears and hearts. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow freely from the heart to the inner ear, hearing loss will happen. Another disease that can impact the inner ear’s nerve ending, and is also linked to heart disease is diabetes which causes messages from the ear to the brain to get mixed up. Those who have detected some amount 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 determine whether the hearing loss is indeed triggered by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to severe, potentially fatal repercussions.
If you have loss of hearing or are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above, feel free to contact us so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.