It’s a regrettable fact of life that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Approximately 38 million people in the U.S. deal with some kind of hearing loss, though since hearing loss is anticipated as we get older, many decide to leave it unchecked. But beyond how well you hear, ignoring hearing loss will have severe adverse side effects.
Why do many people choose to just deal with hearing loss? Based on an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens think of hearing loss as a minor issue that can be managed easily enough, while greater than half of the respondents cited cost as a problem. However, those costs can go up astronomically when you factor in the serious side effects and ailments that are brought on by neglecting hearing loss. What are the most common complications of ignoring hearing loss?
The majority of people will not instantly put two and two together from fatigue to hearing loss. Instead, they will blame their fatigue on countless different ideas, such as slowing down due to aging or a side-effect of medication. The fact is that the less you’re able to hear, the more your body works to compensate for it, leaving you feeling drained. Think about taking an exam such as the SAT where your brain is entirely concentrated on processing the task at hand. Once you’re finished, you likely feel drained. The same thing happens when you struggle to hear: your brain is working to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which, when there is too much background noise, is even more difficult – and just trying to process information consumes precious energy. Looking after yourself requires energy that you won’t have with this type of chronic fatigue. To adapt, you will avoid life-essential activities such as working out or eating healthy.
Hearing loss has been linked, by several Johns Hopkins University studies, to diminishe brain functions , accelerated loss of brain tissue, and dementia. Even though these associations are not causation, they’re correlations, scientists think that, again, the more mental resources that are spent trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less you have to give attention to other things including comprehension and memorization. And decreasing brain function, as we get older is, directly linked to an increased draw on our cognitive resources. In addition, having a regular exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is thought to help seniors stay mentally fit and can help delay the process of mental decline. Luckily, cognitive specialist and hearing specialist can use the known link between cognitive decline and hearing loss to work together to undertake research and establish treatments that are promising in the near future.
Concerns With Mental Health
The National Council on the Aging conducted a study of 2,300 senior citizens who were dealing with some form of hearing loss and found that people who left their condition untreated were more likely to also be dealing with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively impacted their emotional and social well-being. It makes sense that there’s a link between hearing loss and mental health problems since, in family and social situations, individuals who cope with hearing loss have a hard time communicating with others. This can result in feelings of isolation, which can eventually result in depression. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can surface due to these feelings of separation and exclusion. Hearing aids have been shown to help in the recovery from depression, although anybody suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should contact a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one coordinated machine – if one component stops working as it is supposed to, it could have a negative impact on another apparently unrelated part. This is the case with our hearts and ears. Case in point, hearing loss will happen when blood does not flow easily from the heart to the inner ear. Diabetes, which is also connected to heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause information sent to the brain from the ear to become scrambled. People who have noticed some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of diabetes or heart disease in their families should consult with both a hearing and cardiac specialist to ascertain whether the hearing loss is indeed caused by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to severe, possibly fatal consequences.
If you deal with hearing loss or are going through any of the adverse effects listed above, please reach out to us so we can help you live a healthier life.