It’s an unfortunate fact of life that hearing loss is part of the aging process. Roughly 38 million individuals in the U.S. deal with some form of hearing loss, though because hearing loss is anticipated as we age, many choose to ignore it. Neglecting hearing loss, however, can have serious adverse side effects on a person’s whole well-being beyond their inability to hear.
Why is the choice to just live with hearing loss one that many people consider? Based on an AARP study, more than one-third of senior citizens think of hearing loss as a minor issue that can be managed fairly easily, while price was a worry for more than half of individuals who participated in the study. The consequences of ignoring hearing loss, though, can be a lot higher due to conditions and adverse reactions that come with ignoring it. What are the most common complications of ignoring hearing loss?
The majority of people will not instantly connect the dots from fatigue to hearing loss. Instead, they will attribute fatigue to countless different factors, like slowing down due to aging or a side-effect of medication. The reality is that the less you can hear, the more your body works to compensate for it, leaving you feeling exhausted. Think about taking an exam like the SAT where your brain is totally concentrated on processing the task in front of you. You would most likely feel really drained when you’re done. The same thing occurs when you struggle to hear: when there are blanks spots in conversation, your brain needs to work hard to substitute the missing information – which is often made even harder when there’s lots of background noise – and uses up precious energy just attempting to manage the conversation. Looking after yourself requires energy which you won’t have with this kind of chronic fatigue. To adapt, you will skip life-essential activities such as working out or eating healthy.
Hearing loss has been linked, by a number of Johns Hopkins University studies, to decreased cognitive functions , increased loss of brain tissue, and dementia. While these connections are correlations, instead of causations, scientists think that, once again, the more mental resources that are spent trying to fill in the blanks of a conversation, the less you have to give attention to other things including memorization and comprehension. And as people get older, the increased draw on mental resources can accelerate the decline of other brain functions and can lead to gray matter loss. In addition, engaging in a regular exchange of information and ideas, usually through conversation, is believed to help seniors stay mentally fit and can help delay the process of mental decline. Luckily, cognitive specialist and hearing specialist can use the recognized connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss to collaborate to undertake research and establish treatments that are promising in the near future.
Mental Health Problems
The National Council on the Aging found, from a study of more than two thousand senior citizens, that mental health problems which have a negative social and emotional affect, are more common if there is also neglected hearing loss. The connection between mental health issues and hearing loss makes sense since, in social and family situations, individuals who suffer from hearing loss have a difficult time communicating with others. Ultimately, feelings of separation could develop into depression. Feelings of exclusion and isolation can worsen to anxiety and even paranoia if neglected. Hearing aids have been shown to aid in the recovery from depression, though anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, or paranoia should consult with a mental health professional.
If one part of your body, which is an interconnected machine, stops working properly, it might have an impact on seemingly unrelated bodily functions. This is the case with our hearts and ears. As a case in point, if blood flow from the heart to the inner ear is constrained, hearing loss could be the result. Another condition associated with heart disease is diabetes which also impacts the nerve endings of the inner ear and sometimes causes the brain to get scrambled information. If heart disease is disregarded severe or even potentially fatal consequences can occur. So if you’ve noticed 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 whether your hearing loss is linked to a heart condition.
If you suffer from hearing loss or are experiencing any of the adverse repercussions listed above, please reach out to us so we can help you live a healthier life.