Hearing loss is one the most common sensory conditions among aging Americans and is quickly becoming a serious health and social issue. Ignoring your hearing loss can have a serious impact on your social life, finances, and overall well-being. Many do not realize untreated hearing loss can accelerate cognitive decline – increasing our risk of serious health conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
It is believed the burden of struggling to understand conversation, a lack of audible stimulation to the brain, and the social isolation that can accompany hearing loss is responsible for these health risks.
Learn more about the potential effects of untreated hearing loss below.
The Impacts of Ignoring Hearing Loss
An estimated 38 million adults in the United States have hearing loss. While it may be easier to identify the more obvious effects of hearing loss i.e. unable to hear phones, alarms, or automobiles – there are other concerning impacts to one’s physical and emotional health.
Individuals experiencing hearing loss are often less aware of the more severe consequences because they are simply unaware of what they are missing.
Health & Medical Impacts
- Balance & Falling
Uncorrected hearing loss puts you at 3 times the risk of falling when compared to people with normal hearing. Hearing loss affects our inner-ear and equilibrium causing more limited awareness of our surroundings, making tripping or falling more likely to occur.
This is believed to be caused by a cognitive overload. As your hearing loss worsens, your brain must work harder to hear and understand its surroundings thus taking your focus away from other tasks such as mobility.
- Fatigue & Tiredness
Straining to hear is exhausting. For people with hearing loss, daily weariness is increased from the added work that comes with deciphering conversation. Even moderate hearing loss can affect up to 50% of what a person hears. This leaves you to fill in the gaps through lip reading and guessing.
If simple conversation requires you to essentially solve a puzzle, you’ll be expending far more energy than those with normal hearing.
- Heart Health
The connection between hearing and your heart is due to the inner ear’s sensitivity to blood flow. If blood supplied to the inner ear is blocked or slowed, delicate structures of your auditory system are put at risk of being damaged by a lack of oxygen and nutrients.
This means that a healthy heart is directly tied to healthy ears. People with a history of heart disease are 50% more likely to be suffering from hearing loss, making hearing loss a predictor of developing heart problems.
Emotional & Mental Health Impacts
- Dementia & Mental Decline
Recent studies by Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that older adults suffering from hearing loss were 30% to 40% more likely to experience a recession in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.
It is thought that regular conversation and the exchange of ideas or information helps to keep our minds “mentally fit”. When we begin to lose our ability to hear properly, our minds become less active and cognitive function decreases.
- Depression & Social Isolation
It is well understood that people are social creatures. Hearing is a basic part of nearly all of our social interaction. The ability to confide in our loved ones or to carry out cordial conversation with friends is vital to our general well-being.
When we start to lose our ability to hear, we will likely begin avoiding social situations altogether. Either out of embarrassment or otherwise, evasion of public places or challenging conversations can lead to social isolation. In turn, social isolation has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and paranoia.
- Family Relationships
Untreated hearing loss can put a high level of strain on our relationships. It is understood that hearing loss limits a person’s quality of life through isolation and a reduction in social activities, causing depression and anxiety. But it also harms our relationships with loved ones.
As communication gaps widen, family members experience feelings of frustration and sadness. When conversation becomes a burden, our quality of life decreases and relationship dissatisfaction increases.
- Employment & Education
Hearing loss affects our ability to learn new tasks and reduces job performance and by extension reduces our earning power. Inability to communicate properly makes us more vulnerable to making mistakes and feelings of insecurity. It is estimated that hearing loss negatively impacts household income an average of $12,000 annually.
A common belief that keeps people with hearing loss from seeking treatment is the idea that hearing aids carry with them a high cost. But treating hearing loss can cost just pennies a day. Which is far less than the risk of lost income and job productivity.
Effective communication is required in order to succeed at work or school. When communication is hindered, job performance decreases along with compensation, satisfaction, and one’s quality of life.
Do I Have Hearing Problems?
Hearing loss does not typically happen overnight but rather is a gradual transition that many people just don’t realize is occurring. This makes hearing loss difficult to identify and even harder to accept. By the time most people acknowledge their hearing loss and schedule a hearing test, it is often found that they already have significant and permanent hearing loss.
Know the symptoms:
- Difficulty following conversations
- Require others to regularly repeat themselves
- Feel others mumble or speak too softly
- Struggle to listen in noisy environments (restaurants, group meetings, family gatherings)
- Trouble using the telephone
- Increase volume on television or radio beyond others comfort
- Experience ringing in your ears
- Having a favorite ear
Better Hearing, Better Health
Our ability to hear well affects nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Although doctors cannot completely restore lost hearing, technological innovation continues to improve every generation of hearing aids. With effective hearing aids, we can prevent some of the most troubling consequences of hearing loss.
If you are finding it more difficult to hear or have been told by family or friends that you may be experiencing hearing loss, please don’t delay. Schedule a comprehensive hearing exam at your local hearing care center today. Don’t let hearing loss control your life any longer.