Picture hearing loss and many people imagine an elderly person with an old-fashioned hearing aid saying, “What’s that sonny”? The fact is, hearing loss has gone up sharply amongst all age groups and it affects more than just your ability to hear. There are surprising health repercussions for people who neglect it. These four alone make it worth having your hearing examined.
1. Cognitive Decline
Even though you may not have previously known it, hearing loss can affect your overall health. The most significant is the impact hearing loss has on your cognitive functions and brain health. There is evidence that some conditions people associate with aging, like memory loss, might really be caused by hearing decline.
The brain has an incredible ability to adapt to sensory changes, but that backfires when it comes to hearing loss. For someone with regular hearing, a sound is processed through the inner ear in a way that the brain can understand. The difference between the music playing on your car radio and the music the ice cream truck plays as it heads down the street is sorted out by this mechanism.
The brain experiences sound every microsecond whether you think you are hearing something or not. Air hissing in through a vent and other background sounds are around you even if you are relaxing in a quiet room. Your brain interprets this as a sound you don’t need to hear, so you don’t even notice it.
This stimulus is something the brain comes to count on. All of a sudden, when there is hearing loss, the brain doesn’t get the same quality or quantity of sound. Believing the missing sound should still be there, it strains to find it. Your chance of dementia is increased as the absence of stimuli causes cognitive decline as a result of increased stress on the brain. Seniors have a forty percent higher rate of memory loss and cognitive decline if they suffer from hearing loss, according to studies. Even more persuasive, people with hearing loss that get treatment such as hearings aids have been shown to enhance cognitive function.
2. Stomach Problems
That seems like a stretch, but it’s not. Hearing loss leads to changes which are connected to:
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach
The constant stress can cause intestinal issues like:
- Abdominal cramps
More severe conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome will occur as your discomfort increases.
3. Mental Health Concerns
The affect hearing loss has on your mental health is probably the most significant side effect. A 2014 study found that an increase in depression correlates to the loss of hearing in adults below the age of 70.
The depression is most likely accounted for by the fact that people who have hearing loss have a difficult time communicating with others, according to JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery. The research indicates that for women between the ages of 18 to 69 the depression is more pronounced.
Over the years, many mental health problems have been linked to neglected hearing loss such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of focus
Psychological stress and sadness are the result when a person can’t communicate successfully and stops trying.
4. Troubled Relationships
Hearing loss impacts more than just your physical and mental health. Statistically, people make less money if they have hearing loss. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found individuals with untreated hearing loss make on average 20,000 dollars less a year than their hearing colleagues.
Hearing loss causes problems in personal relationships, as well. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents with hearing loss had trouble maintaining relationships. The survey showed:
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that they had trouble with relationships due to their hearing loss
- Thirty-five percent of men Had to be pressured into getting treatment by their partner or spouse before they would agree to it.
- Thirty-seven percent of women surveyed reported getting frustrated when someone who has hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
- Most women indicated relationships with family members and friends were a significant concern with the hearing loss
Hearing loss affects your health, your self-esteem, as well as your relationships. What’s promising is many of these side effects disappear or lesson when you get help like hearing aids. Schedule a hearing test to find out what course of action will work best for you.