Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Treat Your Hearing Loss
We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of challenging or unpleasant chores in favor of something more pleasant or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will sooner or later get around to whatever we’re presently trying to avoid.
Usually, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might wish to clean out the basement, for example, by tossing or donating the things we never use. A clean basement sounds great, but the process of actually hauling things to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the interest of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to notice innumerable alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.
In other cases, procrastination is not so innocuous, and when it pertains to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is getting a hearing exam, current research indicates that untreated hearing loss has major physical, mental, and social consequences.
To understand why, you need to start with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a recognizable comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you understand what happens after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle volume and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t routinely make use of your muscles, they get weaker.
The same takes place with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sound, your capability to process auditory information grows weaker. Scientists even have a name for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”
Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but persisted to not make use of the muscles, relying on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get steadily weaker. The same happens 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 can cause a host of other ailments the latest research is continuing to identify. For example, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University showed that those with hearing loss experience a 40% decline in cognitive function in comparison to those with normal hearing, along with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Generalized cognitive decline also causes significant mental and social consequences. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) observed that those with untreated hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to take part in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.
So what starts out as an annoyance—not having the ability to hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that impacts all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately leads to social isolation, strained relationships, and an increased risk of developing major medical issues.
The Benefits of Hearing Aids
So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one more time. Immediately after the cast comes off, you begin exercising and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.
The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you boost the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recuperate your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, better 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 almost every area of their lives.
Are you ready to accomplish the same improvement?