It’s an unfortunate 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 just neglect it because it’s a normal part of getting older. Ignoring hearing loss, however, can have severe negative side effects on a person’s entire health beyond their inability to hear.
Why do so many people decide to just live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of seniors think of hearing loss as a minor problem that can be handled easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a concern. However, those costs can rise astronomically when you factor in the significant side effects and conditions that are brought on by neglecting 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 blame their fatigue on things like getting older or a side-effect of medication. In reality, as your brain attempts to make up for sound it can’t hear, you’re left feeling exhausted. Visualize a task where you need to be completely concentrated like taking the SAT exam. Once you’re finished, you most likely feel depleted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing occurs: during conversations, your brain is working to fill in the blanks – and when there is a lot of background sound this is even more difficult – and uses up valuable energy just trying to digest the conversation. This type of chronic fatigue can affect your health by leaving you too tired to keep yourself healthy, skipping out on things like cooking healthy meals or going to the gym.
Several studies by Johns Hopkins University linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. While these connections are not direct causations, they are correlations, researchers believe the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less the resources available for other things like comprehension and memory. And as people age, the additional draw on cognitive resources can speed up the decline of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. The process of cognitive decline can be slowed down and seniors can stay mentally fit by the regular exchange of ideas through conversation. The discovery of a link between hearing loss and a decline in cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since the causes of these ailments can be determined and treatments can be developed when hearing and cognitive specialist 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 impacted the emotional well being 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 link between mental health problems and hearing loss seems logical. This can bring on depression after suffering from persistent feelings of seclusion. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can appear due to these feelings of seclusion and exclusion. It’s been demonstrated that recovery from depression is helped by wearing hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be contacted if you suffer from paranoia, depression, or anxiety.
All the different parts of our bodies are one interconnected machine – an apparently unconnected part can be affected negatively if another part quits working as it should. 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 occur. Another disease that can impact 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 contact both a cardiac and hearing specialist to determine whether the hearing loss is indeed caused by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to serious, potentially fatal consequences.
Please contact us if you are having any of the negative effects detailed above or if you have hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Schedule your appointment now.