Most people picture an older person saying “what’s that sonny” when they picture hearing loss. Affecting more than just your ability to hear, hearing loss has escalated dramatically among all age groups. There are alarming health consequences for people who neglect it. These four alone make it worth having your hearing examined.
1. Cognitive Decline
While you may not have previously known it, hearing loss can impact your general health. Brain health and cognitive function are the most serious examples. There is evidence that some conditions people connect with aging, like memory loss, might really be caused by hearing decline.
The brain’s natural ability to adjust to sensory changes backfires when it comes to hearing. The brain can understand sound that is processed through the inner ear when 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 as it heads down your street.
Every microsecond, the brain encounters sound even if you’re not aware of it. Air hissing in through a vent and other ambient sounds are all around you even if you are relaxing in a quiet room. Your brain interprets this as a sound you don’t need to hear, so you don’t even notice it.
The brain comes to count on this stimulus. The brain doesn’t get the same quality or quantity of sound when there is loss of hearing. It struggles to hear the missing sound believing it should still be present. Your risk of dementia is increased as the absence of stimuli results in cognitive decline as a result of increased stress on the brain. Studies have shown that memory loss and cognitive decline is about 40 percent greater in seniors who suffer from hearing loss. Even more compelling is the fact that people have been shown to increase their cognitive functions if they have hearing loss and invest in hearing aids.
2. Stomach Trouble
That’s not as much of a stretch as it seems. The changes you experience due to hearing loss have been connected to side effects like:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
The ongoing stress can manifest intestinal issues like:
- Abdominal cramps
Irritable bowel syndrome or other more severe conditions will develop as the discomfort increases.
3. Mental Health Problems
Probably, the most apparent side effect is the affect hearing loss has on your mental health. A 2014 study found that an increase in depression correlates to a decline of hearing in adults below the age of 70.
People with hearing loss have a tough time communicating with others, according to JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery, and that most likely accounts for the depression. The research shows 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 neglected hearing loss such as:
- Lack of focus
- Social withdrawal
People stop trying if they can’t communicate effectively and that leads to depression and psychological stress.
4. Relationship Troubles
Hearing loss impacts more than just your physical and mental health. Statistically, people make less money if they have hearing loss. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found individuals with untreated hearing loss make on average 20,000 dollars less a year than their hearing colleagues.
Personal relationships also suffer because of hearing loss. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents with hearing loss had trouble maintaining relationships. The survey showed:
- Thirty-five percent of men reported they agreed to treatment for hearing loss because their spouse or partner pressured them into it
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that hearing loss caused relationship problems
- Thirty-seven percent of women questioned reported being irritated when someone who has hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
- Most women indicated that hearing loss was a significant concern when communicating with friends and family members.
Hearing loss affects your health, your self-esteem, and your relationships. 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 learn what option works best for you.