Most people think of an elderly person saying “what’s that sonny” when they picture hearing loss. The fact is, hearing loss has risen sharply among all age groups and it has an effect on more than just your ability to hear. There are alarming health consequences for people who neglect it. These four by themselves make it worth having your hearing checked.
1. Cognitive Decline
Hearing is a sense that you might not link to other health problems but there is an association. Brain health and cognitive function are the most serious examples. There is evidence that some conditions people associate with aging, like memory loss, might really be caused by hearing decline.
The brain’s inherent ability to adjust to sensory changes backfires when it comes to hearing. The brain can understand sound that is processed through the inner ear when hearing is normal. This mechanism permits you to tell the difference between the music playing on your car stereo and the music the ice cream truck plays when it heads down your street.
Each microsecond, the brain encounters sound even if you’re not aware of it. There is still background sound around you even if you are sitting in a quiet room, such as air hissing in through a vent. You don’t even notice it because your brain filters it out.
The brain comes to expect this stimulus. Suddenly, when there is loss of hearing, 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. The lack of stimuli causes the brain to stress leading to cognitive decline and a higher risk of dementia. Seniors have a forty percent higher rate of memory loss and cognitive decline if they have hearing loss, according to studies. Even more compelling is the fact that people have been shown to increase their cognitive functions if they suffer from hearing loss and get hearing aids.
2. Stomach Trouble
That’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Side effects connected to changes you experience due to hearing loss are:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
The constant strain can manifest intestinal issues like:
- Abdominal cramps
Irritable bowel syndrome or other more serious conditions will develop as the discomfort increases.
3. Mental Health Concerns
The most noticeable side effect is probably the impact hearing loss has on your mental health. A 2014 study found that in adults below the age of 70, an increase in depression correlates to a loss of hearing.
People with hearing loss have a hard time communicating with others, according to JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery, and that most likely accounts for the depression. The research suggests that depression is more pronounced in women between the ages of 18 to 69.
Over the years, the untreated hearing loss has been connected to many mental health conditions including:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of focus
People who aren’t able to effectively communicate stop trying and that leads to sadness and psychological anxiety.
4. Relationship Troubles
Your physical and mental health are not the only things that are impacted by hearing loss. 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.
Personal relationships also suffer because of hearing loss. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents with hearing loss had trouble maintaining relationships. The survey showed:
- Thirty-five percent of men reported they agreed to treatment for hearing loss because their spouse or partner pressured them into it
- Most women indicated that hearing loss was a significant concern when communicating with friends and family members.
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that they had trouble with relationships due to their hearing loss
- Thirty-seven percent of women questioned reported getting frustrated when someone with hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
Hearing loss impacts your health, your self-esteem, as well as your relationships. What’s promising is many of these side effects go away or lesson when you get help such as hearing aids. Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out what solution works best for you.