It’s a regrettable fact of life that loss of hearing is part of getting older. Roughly 38 million people suffer from some kind of hearing loss in the United States, but many people choose to simply neglect it because it’s a normal part of getting older. Ignoring hearing loss, however, can have serious negative side effects on a person’s entire health beyond their inability to hear.
Why do many people choose to just live with hearing loss? According to an AARP study, more than one-third of seniors think of hearing loss as a minor issue that can be managed easily enough, while more than half of the respondents cited cost as a concern. However, those costs can rise astronomically when you take into account the serious side effects and conditions that are caused by ignoring hearing loss. Ignoring 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 fatigue to several other factors, such as slowing down due to aging or a side-effect of medication. The truth is that the less you are able to hear, the more your body works to compensate, leaving you feeling exhausted. Visualize a task where you have to be completely concentrated like taking the SAT test. When you’re finished, you likely feel exhausted. The same thing occurs when you struggle to hear: your brain is working to fill in the blanks you’re missing in conversations – which is generally made even more difficult when there is a lot of background sound – and uses up precious energy just attempting to digest the discussion. This type of chronic fatigue can affect your health by leaving you too run down to keep yourself healthy, skipping out on things like cooking healthy meals or going to the gym.
Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that linked hearing loss to , accelerated brain tissue loss, and dementia. Even though these connections are not direct causations, they are correlations, it’s believed by researchers the more the blanks need to be filled in by the brain, the more the cognitive resources needed and the less there are to dedicate to other things like comprehension and memorization. And as people get older, the additional draw on cognitive resources can accelerate the decline of other brain functions and contribute to gray matter loss. In addition, having a frequent exchange of ideas and information, often through conversation, is believed to help senior citizens stay mentally tuned and can help delay the process of cognitive decline. The future for researchers is encouraging due to the discovery of a link between the decrease in cognitive function and hearing loss, since the causes of these conditions can be determined and treatments can be formulated when cognitive and hearing specialist work together.
Mental Health Issues
The National Council on the Aging conducted a study of 2,300 seniors who suffered some form of hearing loss and discovered that those who ignored their hearing problem had mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and paranoia, which negatively impacted their social and emotional well-being. The connection between hearing loss and mental health issues makes sense since those with hearing loss often have trouble communicating with others in social or family situations. This can lead to depression after suffering from persistent feelings of loneliness. Due to these feelings of exclusion and isolation, anxiety and even paranoia can be the result, particularly if left untreated. Hearing aids have been shown to aid in the recovery from depression, however, anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should seek advice from with a mental health professional.
All the parts of our bodies are one interconnected machine – an evidently unconnected part can be affected negatively if another part stops working as it is supposed to. This is the case with our ears and hearts. Case in point, hearing loss will happen when blood does not flow freely from the heart to the inner ear. Diabetes, which is also connected to heart disease, can impact the inner ear’s nerve endings and scramble messages from the ear to the brain. Those who have noticed some amount 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 find out whether the hearing loss is indeed triggered by a heart condition, since neglecting the symptoms could lead to serious, possibly fatal repercussions.
Please reach out to us if you are experiencing any of the negative effects outlined above or if you have hearing loss so we can help you live a healthier life. Schedule your appointment now.