It’s a regrettable fact of life that loss of hearing is part of the aging process. Approximately 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but since hearing loss is expected as we age, many choose to ignore it. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their entire health can be negatively impacted if they ignore their hearing loss.
Why do many people decide to just live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens think of hearing loss as a minor problem that can be dealt with 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 serious side effects and ailments that are triggered by ignoring hearing loss. Neglecting hearing loss has the following negative side effects.
Most people will not immediately connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. Alternatively, they will attribute tiredness to a number of different factors, like slowing down due to aging or a side-effect of medication. In truth, as your brain attempts to make up for sound it can’t hear, you’re left feeling depleted. Imagine you are taking a test like the SAT where your brain is totally focused on processing the task at hand. When you’re finished, you probably feel exhausted. When you struggle to hear, the same thing occurs: when having conversations, your brain is working to fill in the blanks – and if there is a lot of background noise this is even more difficult – and uses up valuable energy just attempting to process the discussion. Your health can be impacted by this type of persistent fatigue and you can be left so tired you can’t take good care of yourself, 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 links are not direct causations, they are correlations, researchers think the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less you’ll have to dedicate to other things such as memorization and comprehension. And as people age, the additional drain on cognitive resources can speed up the decline of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. In addition, having a regular exchange of information and ideas, often through conversation, is believed to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help slow the process of cognitive decline. The discovery of a link between loss of hearing and a decline in cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since hearing and cognitive specialists can work together to determine the causes and develop treatments for these conditions.
Issues With Your Mental Health
The National Council on the Aging conducted a study of 2,300 seniors who suffered some form of hearing loss and discovered that people who neglected their hearing problem had mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively impacted their social and emotional well-being. The connection between loss of hearing and mental health problems makes sense since people with hearing loss often have trouble communicating with others in social or family scenarios. This can lead to feelings of isolation, which can eventually lead to depression. Due to these feelings of exclusion and solitude, anxiety and even paranoia can be the result, particularly if left untreated. It’s been demonstrated that recovery from depression is assisted by wearing hearing aids. But a mental health professional should still be contacted if you suffer from paranoia, depression, or anxiety.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part quits functioning the way it’s supposed to, it could have a negative effect on another apparently unrelated part. This is the situation with our ears and hearts. As an example, when blood doesn’t flow freely from the heart to the inner ear, loss of hearing will occur. Diabetes, which is also linked to heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and scramble messages from the ear to the brain. Those who have noticed some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should seek advice from both a hearing and cardiac specialist to determine whether the hearing loss is indeed triggered by a heart condition, since ignoring the symptoms could lead to serious, possibly fatal consequences.
If you have hearing loss or are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above, feel free to contact us so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.