Most people imagine an elderly person saying “what’s that sonny” when they picture hearing loss. The fact is, hearing loss has risen sharply among all age groups and it affects more than just your ability to hear. If it is left untreated it can cause alarming consequences. These four alone make it worth having your hearing examined.
1. Cognitive Decline
There is an association between hearing loss and other health problems, although you may not have previously known about them. Brain health and cognitive function are the most significant examples. Some conditions generally associated with aging are actually caused by hearing loss.
The brain’s natural ability to adjust to sensory changes backfires when it comes to hearing. Sound is processed through the inner ear in a way the brain can understand if hearing is normal. This mechanism allows you to know the difference between the music coming from your car stereo and the music the ice cream truck plays when it goes down your street.
Even if you’re not aware of it, the brain experiences sound every microsecond. If you are relaxing in a quiet room, there is still ambient noise around you, like the hiss of air blowing through the AC vent. You don’t even notice it because your brain filters it out.
The brain comes to count on this stimulus. Suddenly, when there is hearing loss, the brain doesn’t get the same quality or quantity of sound. Thinking the missing sound should still be there, it struggles to find it. The fatigue on the brain and absence of stimuli can cause cognitive decline that increases your chances of dementia later in your life. Memory loss and cognitive decline are forty percent more common in seniors with hearing loss, according to studies. Even more compelling is the fact that people have been shown to increase their cognitive functions if they have hearing loss and get hearing aids.
2. Stomach Issues
That’s not as much of a stretch as it seems. The changes you experience due to hearing loss have been associated with side effects like:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
The ongoing stress can cause intestinal problems like:
- Abdominal cramps
More serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome will happen as your discomfort increases.
3. Mental Health Concerns
Probably, the most noticeable side effect is the impact hearing loss has on your mental health. A 2014 study found that a decline in hearing correlates to a rise in depression in adults under the age of 70.
The depression is most likely accounted for by the fact that people who have hearing loss have a difficult time communicating with others, according to JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery. The research indicates that for women between the ages of 18 to 69 the depression is more prominent.
Over the years, many mental health conditions have been connected to untreated hearing loss such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of focus
People stop trying if they can’t communicate successfully and that causes depression and psychological strain.
4. Relationship Troubles
Your physical and mental health are not the only things that are impacted by hearing loss. People with poor hearing statistically make less money. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found 20,000 dollars per year less is made by individuals with hearing loss in comparison to their hearing colleagues.
Personal relationships also suffer because of hearing loss. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents had a hard time maintaining relationships if they suffered from hearing loss. The survey showed:
- Most women indicated relationships with family members and friends were a significant concern with the hearing loss
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that hearing loss caused relationship problems
- Thirty-seven percent of women surveyed reported getting irritated when someone with hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
- Thirty-five percent of men reported they agreed to treatment for hearing loss because their spouse or partner pressured them into it
Hearing loss has an effect on your relationships as well as your health and how you feel about yourself. What’s promising is many of these side effects go away or lesson when you get help like hearing aids. Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out what solution works best for you.