It’s an unfortunate fact of life that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Approximately 38 million individuals in the U.S. suffer from some form of hearing loss, but since hearing loss is anticipated as we age, many choose to just deal with it. But beyond the ability to hear, ignoring hearing loss can have serious adverse side effects.
Why is the choice to simply live with hearing loss one that many people choose? According to an AARP study, hearing loss is, according to a third of seniors, a problem that is minimal and can be managed easily, while cost was a worry for more than half of people who participated in the study. The costs of neglecting hearing loss, however, can be a lot higher due to conditions and adverse reactions that come with ignoring it. What are the most common complications of neglecting hearing loss?
The majority of people won’t immediately put two and two together from fatigue to hearing loss. They will say, rather, that they are slowing down due to the side-effects of a medication or because they’re getting older. But in reality, if you have to work harder to hear, it can deplete your physical resources. Think about taking an exam such as the SAT where your brain is totally focused on processing the task in front of you. Once you’re done, you probably feel drained. When you are struggling to hear, it’s a similar scenario: when there are missing spots in conversation, your brain needs to work extra hard to fill in the missing information – which, when there is too much background noise, is even harder – and just attempting to process information uses valuable energy. This type of chronic tiredness can affect your health by leaving you too tired to take care of yourself, cutting out things like working out or cooking wholesome meals.
Hearing loss has been linked, by numerous Johns Hopkins University studies, to reduced brain functions , accelerated loss of brain tissue, and dementia. While these connections are correlations, not causations, it’s theorized by researchers that, once again, the more cognitive resources that are spent trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less there are to give attention to other things including comprehension and memorization. And decreasing brain function, as we age is, directly linked to an increased draw on our mental resources. In addition, engaging in a routine exchange of ideas and information, usually through conversation, is thought to help seniors stay mentally fit and can help slow the process of cognitive decline. The fact that a link was discovered between hearing loss and a decline in cognitive functions is encouraging for future research since hearing and cognitive specialists can work together to pinpoint the factors and create treatments for these ailments.
Mental Health Issues
The National Council on the Aging performed a study of 2,300 senior citizens who suffered some form of hearing loss and found that those who left their condition untreated were more likely to also suffer from mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively affected their emotional and social happiness. It makes sense that there is a link between mental health and hearing loss issues since people with hearing loss frequently have difficulty communicating with other people in social or family situations. Ultimately, feelings of separation could develop into depression. If neglected, anxiety and even paranoia can surface due to these feelings of solitude and exclusion. Hearing aids have been proven to help in the recovery from depression, although anybody suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should consult with a mental health professional.
Our bodies are one interconnected machine – if one component stops working as it is supposed to, it might have a negative impact on another apparently unrelated part. This is the case with our hearts and ears. Case in point, hearing loss will occur when blood doesn’t easily flow from the heart to the inner ear. Diabetes, which is also linked to heart disease, can affect the inner ear’s nerve endings and cause messages sent from the ear to the brain to get scrambled. If heart disease is ignored serious or even potentially fatal consequences can happen. So if you’ve detected some hearing loss and you have a history of diabetes or heart disease in your family you should consult both a cardiac and hearing specialist in order to figure out if your hearing loss is linked to a heart condition.
If you deal with hearing loss or are experiencing any of the adverse effects listed above, please contact us for a consultation so we can help you have a healthier life.