Loss of hearing is a normal part of the aging process, unfortunately. Approximately 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, though since hearing loss is expected as we get older, many choose to ignore it. However, beyond a person’s ability to hear, their overall health can be negatively affected if they neglect their hearing loss.
Why do many people choose to simply live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, More than half of senior citizens cited costs as the major concern while one third regard hearing loss as a minor issue that can be easily treated. However, those costs can increase astronomically when you take into account the significant side effects and ailments that are caused 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. Instead, they will connect tiredness to several other factors, like slowing down due to aging or a side-effect of medication. The reality is that the less you are able to hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling exhausted. Imagine you are taking a test such as the SAT where your brain is completely concentrated on processing the task at hand. You will probably feel exhausted once you finish. When you struggle to hear, the same thing occurs: during conversations, your brain is working to fill in the blanks – which is generally made much harder when there is a lot of background noise – and spends valuable energy just attempting to digest the conversation. Your overall health can be impacted by this type of persistent fatigue and you can be left so tired you keep yourself healthy, passing up on things like going to the gym or cooking healthy meals.
Several studies by Johns Hopkins University linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Although these connections are correlations instead of causations, it’s thought by researchers that the more cognitive resources spent attempting to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less the resources available for other things like comprehension and memory. The decrease of brain function is sped up and there is a loss of grey matter with the increased draw on cognitive ability that comes with growing older. Also, having a regular exchange of information and ideas, often through conversation, is believed to help seniors stay mentally fit and can help delay the process of cognitive decline. The future for researchers is promising due to the discovery of a connection between the decrease in cognitive function and loss of hearing, since the causes of these conditions can be identified and treatment options can be developed when cognitive and hearing experts work together.
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 ignored their hearing problem had mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their social and emotional well-being. The link between loss of hearing and mental health problems makes sense since those with hearing loss often have difficulty communicating with others in family or social situations. 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. Hearing aids have been shown to help in the recovery from depression, though anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should seek advice from with a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one part stops functioning as it should, it might have a negative impact on another seemingly unrelated part. 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. Diabetes, which is also associated with heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and scramble messages from the ear to the brain. Individuals who have detected some degree of hearing loss and who have a history of heart disease or diabetes in their families should contact both a hearing and cardiac specialist to determine whether the hearing loss is indeed caused by a heart condition, since ignoring the symptoms could lead to serious, potentially fatal consequences.
Please contact us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects detailed above or if you have hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Make your appointment for a hearing test.