Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss
Did you know that people with hearing loss wait, on average, seven years before getting hearing aids? Living with untreated hearing loss has more impacts than you might imagine. Leaving hearing loss untreated can create some unintended consequences to your overall health and well-being. Common issues associated with untreated hearing loss include social isolation, depression, cognitive decline, dementia and increased risk of injury or death.
People with untreated hearing loss often have a difficult time following conversations, especially in noisy or crowded environments. It’s not uncommon for individuals with untreated hearing loss to remove themselves from environments where it is difficult to hear. As a result, they often miss out on social gatherings like birthday parties, after-work dinners, family outings and more. Eventually, these individuals become isolated, void of enough human interaction and conversation.
As social isolation becomes a more constant way of life, many individuals living with untreated hearing loss often fall into depression. Depression is identified as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest, according to the Mayo Clinic. Signs and symptoms can be present in an individual’s mood, sleep cycle, body, behavior, cognitive ability or weight. Examples of this behavoir include mood swings, fatigue, loss of appetite or excessive hunger, a lack of concentration, insomnia or restless sleep.
Cognitive decline and dementia
Researchers believe that cognitive decline and dementia are linked. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, adults with hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia.
Why is this? The brain has to work in order to recognise sound. When someone is living with untreated hearing loss, the parts of the brain that receive signals from the auditory nerve don’t work as often or as well. As such, the tissue can start to deteriorate. Think of it as someone who lifts weights: The more a person lifts or works out, the healthier and bigger the muscle will be. If a person stops working out, the muscle will begin to atrophy. This same process can happen with the brain and extend beyond the areas required to understand sound. As such, if ears can no longer pick up on as many sounds, fewer signals are sent to the brain. As a result, the brain atrophies, or declines.
Increased risk of injury or death
When hearing loss is present, an individual can lose his or her sense of space. Those with hearing loss may miss warning cues, such as sirens or horns. As such, individuals with hearing loss are at a greater risk of injury, or even death. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, hearing loss puts individuals at three times the risk of falling and injuries are 50 percent more likely.