Hearingloss.org states that about 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. The amount of people who seek treatment is much less than that. I often serve patients who have moderate to severe hearing loss that resulted from their denial of the early indications of declining hearing health. Many people don’t want to face their hearing loss for various reasons. However, early treatment is the most effective way to prevent or slow down its progression. The long term effects of hearing loss can range from a minor inconvenience to a life-altering situation. I want to take this opportunity to discuss the damage that untreated hearing loss can cause and why regular visits to your audiologist are vital to your long-term health.
Straining to understand what others are saying and the worry that someone will mention your diminished hearing can deplete your energy, and it is a challenging way for a person to go through life. If the hearing issues aren’t treated, then the problem and the anxiety will only get worse.
Strained Personal Relationships
Communication is the key to any personal relationship. When your ability to hear is compromised, you cannot effectively communicate with the people who are close to you or anyone else for that matter. This leads to frustration for everyone involved, which will take its toll on the relationship.
Perhaps even worse, this causes you to have to deal with your hearing loss on your own. This can lead to isolation and diminished social capacity. If you are open, honest, and seek treatment, then your loved ones can support you and take some of the weight off of your shoulders.
Difficulty at Work
You most likely rely on your hearing ability heavily during your workday. If you can’t discuss issues or take verbal direction, your work will suffer. This can breed stress and anxiety because of poor job performance. This can lead to several other stress-related health issues.
For many professions, hearing is essential to safety. Forklift operators, bus drivers, and factory workers are examples of jobs that require adequate hearing. Diminished hearing for people in these positions and similar situations can put their lives in immediate danger.
The Effect of Hearing Loss on the Brain
There is an area of the human brain that is specifically responsible for receiving audio stimulation and interpretation of the information. Hearing loss prevents that part of the brain from serving its function. Like muscles, the brain can be damaged if it is not used for an extended period. The neural connections will be destroyed, and the brain will shrink. This condition is called cerebral atrophy, and it can spread to other parts of the brain. When cerebral atrophy progresses far enough, it can cause dementia.
The part of the brain that is built to interpret sounds will essentially “fight” to try to serve its function. In people with hearing loss, the brain will often become confused, and it may pick up on background noise or pieces of conversation, but it will not be able to make sense of them. This causes the brain to work very hard to try to make sense of the stimuli that it receives. This confusion can affect cells in the brain, and if it is ignored, it can be a trigger for Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Untreated hearing loss can pose a significant risk to your brain’s health.
The Price of Hearing Loss
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that people with untreated hearing loss pay an average of 46% more in healthcare costs than those without hearing loss. Poor hearing loss is often indicative of poor overall health. In addition to the brain issues that untreated hearing loss can cause is often associated with depression, debilitating falls, and a lower overall quality of life.
What You Can Do
Just as I treat many patients who have ignored their hearing loss until it presents a significant problem, I also treat patients who are proactive about their hearing health. These patients recognize the value of a good audiologist and know that it is better to face the problem head-on than to ignore it. These patients do not only restore and maintain their hearing, but they also protect themselves from dementia, depression, cognitive decline, as well as strained personal and professional relationships.
A qualified audiologist can test your hearing, identify the issues that cause bad hearing health, and treat those issues. We are specially trained to understand the human audiological system and help our patients to improve their quality of life. If you are ready to commit to your health, contact us at Physicians Hearing Care to help you find your way to good hearing health.