It’s a regrettable fact of life that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Approximately 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but a lot of people decide to simply neglect it because it’s a normal part of getting older. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their entire life can be negatively impacted if they ignore their hearing loss.
Why do so many people choose to simply live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of seniors consider hearing loss to be a minor issue that can be managed easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a worry. However, those costs can rise astronomically when you take into account the significant side effects and ailments that are brought on by ignoring 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 often in denial and will attribute their fatigue on things such as aging 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 tired. Imagine you are taking a test such as the SAT where your brain is completely concentrated on processing the task at hand. When you’re finished, you most likely feel exhausted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing happens: your brain is working to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is often made even more difficult when there is a lot of background sound – and spends valuable energy just trying to digest the conversation. Your health can be affected by this type of persistent fatigue and you can be left so run down you can’t take good care of yourself, leaving things like cooking healthy meals or going to the gym hard to accomplish.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Even though these links are correlations instead of causations, researchers think that the more cognitive resources used trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less there are to focus on other things such as memorization and comprehension. And as people get older, the additional draw on cognitive resources can speed up the decrease of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. The process of cognitive decline can be slowed down and senior citizens can stay mentally tuned by the regular exchange of ideas through conversation. The discovery of a link between hearing loss and a loss of cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since the causes of these conditions can be pinpointed and treatment options can be formulated when hearing and cognitive experts work together.
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 health more often than those who don’t have hearing loss. Since difficulty communicating with others in family and social situations is common for those with hearing loss, the connection between mental health issues and hearing loss seems logical. This can cause feelings of isolation, which can eventually lead to depression. If left untreated, anxiety and even paranoia can surface due to these feelings of loneliness and exclusion. It’s been shown that recovery from depression is assisted by wearing hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be consulted if you have depression, anxiety, or paranoia.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part stops functioning as it should, it could have a negative effect 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, loss of hearing will happen. Another disease that can affect the inner ear’s nerve ending, and is also connected to heart disease is diabetes which causes messages from the ear to the brain to become scrambled. Individuals who have noticed some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should consult with 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, possibly fatal repercussions.
Please get in touch with us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above or if you suffer from loss of hearing so we can help you live a healthier life. Schedule your appointment now.