Hearing loss is a normal part of the aging process, unfortunately. Approximately 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but because hearing loss is expected as we get older, many people decide to ignore it. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their entire life can be negatively impacted if they ignore their hearing loss.
Why do many people decide to just live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, More than half of seniors cited costs as the major concern while one third regard hearing loss as a minor problem that can be easily treated. However, those costs can rise astronomically when you factor in the serious side effects and conditions that are brought on by ignoring hearing loss. Ignoring hearing loss has the following negative side effects.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. They are often in denial and will attribute their fatigue on things like getting older or a side-effect of medication. The reality is that the less you are able to hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling exhausted. Visualize a task where you need to be completely focused like taking the SAT test. When you’re finished, you likely feel exhausted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing occurs: during conversations, your brain is trying to fill in the blanks – and if there is a lot of background sound this is even more difficult – and spends precious energy just attempting to process the discussion. Your overall health can be affected by this type of persistent fatigue and you can be left so tired you can’t take good care of yourself, skipping out on things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals.
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 that the more cognitive resources used attempting to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less the resources available for other things such as memory and comprehension. And as people age, the greater drain on cognitive resources can accelerate the decline of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. Also, having a regular exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is believed to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help reduce the process of cognitive decay. The future for researchers is promising due to the discovery of a link between the decline in cognitive function and loss of hearing, since the causes of these conditions can be identified and treatments can be formulated when hearing and cognitive experts team up.
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 affected the emotional well being more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. Since trouble communicating with others in social and family situations is normal for those with hearing loss, the connection between mental health issues and hearing loss seems logical. This can result in depression after suffering from prolonged feelings of loneliness. Due to these feelings of exclusion and solitude, anxiety and even paranoia can be the consequence, especially if neglected. Hearing aids have been shown to aid in the recovery from depression, however, anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should consult with a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part quits functioning as it should, it could have a negative impact on another seemingly unrelated part. This is the case 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. Diabetes, which is also associated with heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause messages sent from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. People who have noticed some level of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should seek advice from 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, potentially fatal repercussions.
Please get in touch with us if you are having 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.