You may know you are suffering from hearing loss but find it difficult to get help. Seven years is the average someone waits to seek treatment after they have been diagnosed with hearing loss. There are a lot of reasons people wait including thinking they don’t have a problem, frustration with the loss, and belief it is a sign of aging.
Serious consequences can occur when ignoring your hearing loss. Clinical studies show effects in cognitive, social, psychological and health. This varies by person, but all of these have serious effects on the quality of your life. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to impaired memory, balance issues, and dementia. Older adults with hearing loss have a greater chance of experiencing the effects of cognitive decline. As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, dementia in this population is expected to triple.
Emotional Effects Of Untreated Hearing Loss
Clinical studies have linked untreated hearing loss to many emotional health conditions, including:
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
Having a hearing loss tends to isolate us from others. When you struggle to converse, you don’t want to socialize in groups or go with friends to restaurants. Withdrawing from friends and family over time can lead to depression and anxiety. If you’re still working, you can feel anxious when you don’t hear in a work meeting or a large gathering.
Untreated Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
Social isolation has been recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. When your hearing lessons, your brain receives less regular stimulus from your ears to process and identify different sounds. After time, this reduced interaction for your brain can lead to dementia and memory loss. It helps to visualize your brain like your body. When you exercise your body, you remain healthy. If you don’t engage muscles, they become weaker. When you do not treat your hearing loss, your brain becomes ‘weaker’. Specifically, the part of your brain involved with processing speech becomes ‘weaker’ and this increases chances of memory loss.
Benefits Of Wearing A Hearing Aid
Treating your hearing loss can be your first step toward a happier, healthier, life. Wearing hearing aids can improve the negative effects your hearing loss has had on your brain. When you get hearing aids, you are giving your brain what it needs to understand what you are hearing. Hearing aids process the sound signals to your brain does not have to struggle and exhaust itself trying to determine what is said. Treating your loss reduces your cognitive load, and makes it easier for your brain to perform other tasks.
Using hearing aids can reopen many activities that you have avoided and can enrich your life. Some benefits of treating your hearing loss with hearing aids include:
- Hearing your spouse and grandchildren again
- Enjoying the birds and nature again
- Participating at parties and understanding your friends
- Feeling safer in your travels
- Going to noisy restaurants and understanding conversations
How To Get Help
Hearing loss affects every age group and scheduling an appointment with a hearing instrument specialist is the best way to know if you are affected. They will identify the degree and type of your hearing loss. Then, your hearing instrument specialist can suggest a type and hearing aid style which best fits your situation and lifestyle.
When you believe you or a loved one is struggling with a hearing loss, schedule an appointment with your hearing instrument specialist and move to clearer hearing.