It’s a regrettable fact of life that loss of hearing is part of getting older. Approximately 38 million people in the United States suffer from some form of hearing loss, though since hearing loss is expected as we get older, many decide to ignore it. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their overall health can be negatively impacted if they neglect their hearing loss.
Why do so many people choose to just live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of seniors consider hearing loss to be a minor problem that can be handled easily enough, while more than half of the participants cited cost as a concern. When you consider the conditions and significant side effects caused by ignoring hearing loss, however, the costs can go up dramatically. 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 exhaustion to a number of other factors, like slowing down based on aging or a side-effect of medication. The reality is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling tired. Imagine you are taking a test such as the SAT where your brain is totally focused on processing the task at hand. When you’re done, you most likely feel exhausted. The same thing happens when you struggle to hear: your brain is working to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is generally made much more difficult when there is a lot of background sound – and uses up valuable energy just trying to process the conversation. This type of chronic fatigue can impact your health by leaving you too tired to take care of yourself, skipping out on things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Although these connections 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 the resources available for other things like comprehension and memory. And as people age, the greater drain on cognitive resources can speed up the decrease of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. In addition, having a regular exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is thought to help seniors stay mentally tuned and can help delay the process of cognitive decay. The future for researchers is promising due to the discovery of a link between the decrease in cognitive function and hearing loss, since hearing and cognitive experts can team up to identify the causes and formulate 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 emotional and social well-being. Since trouble communicating with others in social and family situations is normal for those with hearing loss, the link between mental health issues and hearing loss makes sense. This can cause feelings of isolation, which can eventually lead to depression. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can surface due to these feelings of loneliness 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 parts of our bodies are one interconnected machine – an evidently unconnected part can be impacted negatively if another part stops working as it should. This is the case with our ears and hearts. Case in point, hearing loss will take place when blood does not flow easily from the heart to the inner ear. Another disease that can affect the inner ear’s nerve ending, and is also associated with heart disease is diabetes which causes messages from the ear to the brain to get scrambled. Individuals who have detected some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should seek advice from both a cardiac and hearing specialist to find out whether the hearing loss is indeed triggered by a heart condition, since ignoring the symptoms could lead to serious, potentially fatal repercussions.
Please reach out to us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above or if you suffer from hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.