Noise-induced hearing loss, which is closely associated with aging, is a major concern among the medical community, non-profits, and world governments.
International organizations, including the World Health Organization(WHO) and US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have warned us about this global challenge.
These organizations have spearheaded research and initiatives to battle what some consider an epidemic. But why the concern? Hearing loss is an important health issue, but does it warrant this level of attention? The following five side effects of hearing loss shed light on why this public health issue requires our attention.
1. Poor health outcomes
Physicians are concerned about the increased prevalence of hearing loss. They’ve also brought to light a lack of awareness regarding hearing aids, and how they can help individuals avoid many of the negative side effects of hearing loss.
Among these side effects, the medical community is unsure whether patients experiencing hearing loss fully understand their doctors’ orders. Patients will nod and say they understand, but then fail to follow basic instructions to help prevent hearing loss and its adverse effects.
Misunderstandings and misinterpretations of verbal instructions from health providers can put patients at serious risk. This lack of understanding has unfortunate consequences for patients. Individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to end up in the ER and spend additional time in hospitals.
2. Trouble communicating
As an individual with healthy hearing, your ability to understand language is tied a specific part of your brain. As hearing loss progresses, it becomes more difficult to understand words, even when you can hear and read them.
This lack of comprehension can lead to frustration, arguments with family, and other difficulties in daily life. This side effect is believed to ultimately lead to cognitive decline.
3. Cognitive decline
It may be difficult to think about the possibility of our own cognitive decline, but avoiding the topic won’t make it go away.
Those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to suffer from mental decline. They struggle with memory, learning new things, and understanding basic instructions. Everything in life just seems more difficult. Leaving hearing loss untreated may eventually lead to dementia.
MRI scans consistently demonstrate reduced brain size among individuals with untreated hearing loss.
But there is hope. One study showed 80% of individuals who had already gone into cognitive decline due to hearing loss improved when the hearing loss was treated.
So, why does this cognitive decline progress so quickly?
4. Social isolation and mental health issues
Individuals who are socially isolated have a 64% higher risk of dementia. Lack of human interaction allows the brain to atrophy. As hearing declines, people have a tendency to withdraw from social situations. It becomes frustrating and exhausting for those experiencing hearing loss to communicate.
Those with untreated hearing loss are:
- 24% more likely to avoid activities and people they love
- 38% more likely to develop anxiety and paranoia
- 27% more likely to experience “frequent sadness”
- More than twice as likely to experience depression
- Less likely to be active and involved in their communities
Studies demonstrate these side effects begin among individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss and worsen when hearing loss becomes severe.
Conversely, those who regularly wear hearing aids were at no greater risk for depression or mental health issues than their peers with healthy hearing.
Social isolation and depression often alienate those suffering from hearing loss from loved ones. It’s also important to remember that untreated hearing loss can take a devastating toll on your closest relationships.
5. Strained relationships
One in 16 people experiencing hearing loss says their spouses have threatened to divorce them if they don’t get help. Individuals with hearing loss are more likely to get into arguments, many of which are about the effects of their untreated hearing loss. The TV is often too loud. You think someone said something they didn’t. You’re already frustrated because it’s so hard to understand.
Your spouse or other close family members see firsthand how these side effects can progress. They’re also experiencing frustration surrounding the effects of your untreated hearing loss.
Often, family and friends examine the research and discover that wearing hearing aids can virtually eliminate or reverse these effects. If you don’t get help, they will inevitably become frustrated by your inaction.
Beyond the aforementioned side effects is the obvious one – missing out on the sounds you want to hear, from beautiful music to loving words whispered in your ear. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, don’t wait another day. Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist as soon as possible.