It’s now the 4th leading cause of disability. Noise-induced hearing loss, the kind we associate with aging, has become a point of major concern among the medical community, non-profits and world governments alike.
A global challenge, international organizations like WHO (World Health Organization) and US-based CDC (Centers for Disease Control) are sounding the alarm.
They’re focusing efforts on research and initiatives to help battle what some consider an epidemic. But why the concern? Is this level of worry uncalled for? Hearing loss is bad. But does it warrant the attention?
These 5 shocking side effects of hearing loss shed light on why this public health issue requires our focus.
1. Poor Health Outcomes
Physicians are concerned about the increased prevalence of hearing loss. They’re further pointing out the lack of awareness that hearing aids can help their patients avoid nearly all of the negative side effects of hearing loss.
Among these side effects, doctors are unsure whether patients are fully understanding the doctor’s orders. Patients nod and say they understand. They then fail to follow basic instructions that would help prevent adverse events.
Misunderstandings and misinterpretations of verbal instructions from health personnel put patients at serious risk. This lack of understanding has real consequences for patients. Those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to end up in the ER and spend longer in the hospital.
2. Trouble Communicating
As a hearing person, a person not born deaf, your ability to understand language is tied into the part of your brain used for hearing. As the hearing loss progresses, it becomes more difficult to understand words even when you can hear and read them.
This can lead to frustration, arguments with family and other difficulties functioning in daily life.
This side effect is thought to be related to cognitive decline.
3. Cognitive Decline
No one likes to think about cognitive decline, but avoiding the topic won’t make it go away.
Those with untreated hearing loss are 24% more likely to decline cognitively. They struggle with memory, learning new things and understanding basic instructions. Everything in life just seems harder. Full-blown dementia is often the ultimate outcome.
MRI scans even show a reduction in brain size in those with untreated hearing loss.
But there is hope: one study showed that 80% of people who’ve already gone into decline because of hearing loss will improve once the hearing loss is treated.
Why does this decline progress so quickly? Side effect number 4 offers a clue.
4. Social Isolation & Mental Health Issues
People who are socially isolated have a 64% higher risk of dementia. Lack of human stimulation allows the brain to go into a fog. As hearing declines, people withdraw. It becomes frustrating and exhausting to communicate.
Those with untreated hearing loss are:
- 24% more likely to isolate from activities and people they love
- 38% more likely to develop anxiety and paranoid feelings
- 27% more likely to feel “frequent sadness”.
- More than twice as likely to be at risk for depression
- Less likely to be active and involved in the community
Studies show that these side effects start with mild to moderate hearing loss and become worse as hearing loss reaches the severe stage.
Those who regularly wear their hearing aids were at no greater risk than their peers who hear well.
Social isolation and depression often alienate those with hearing loss from those they love the most. Finally, let’s look at the toll that hearing loss takes of your closest relationships.
5. Strained Relationship
1 in 16 people with hearing loss says that their spouse has threatened divorce if they don’t get help. People with hearing loss are more likely to get into arguments, many of which are about the hearing loss. The TV is too loud. You think someone said something they didn’t. You’re already frustrated because it’s so hard to understand, and so on.
A spouse or other close family member sees firsthand how these side effects progress. They’re also experiencing the frustration of hearing loss.
Often family and friends read the research and know that wearing hearing aids can virtually eliminate and reverse these outcomes and become frustrated by inaction.
Beyond all these side effects is the obvious one: missing out on the sounds around you, from beautiful music, to tender words whispered in your ear. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, don’t wait another day. Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.