Imagine hearing loss and most people picture an older person with an old-fashioned hearing aid saying, “What’s that sonny”? Hearing loss impacts more than just your ability to hear and has risen sharply among every age group. There are surprising health consequences for people who ignore it. Based solely on these four, it’s worth having your hearing tested.
1. Mental Decline
Even though you may not have previously known it, hearing loss can affect your overall health. Your cognitive function and brain health are the most serious example. Hearing decline is the true cause of certain conditions which some people associate with aging.
The brain’s natural ability to adjust to sensory changes backfires when it comes to hearing. For a person with normal hearing, a sound is processed through the inner ear in a way that the brain can understand. The difference between the music coming from your car radio and the music the ice cream truck plays as it heads down the street is sorted out by this mechanism.
Every microsecond, the brain encounters sound even if you’re not aware of it. Air hissing in through a vent and other background sounds are around you even if you are sitting in a quiet room. Your brain interprets this as a sound you don’t need to know about, so you don’t notice it.
This stimulus is something the brain comes to expect. The brain doesn’t get the same quality or quantity of sound when there is hearing loss. Believing the missing sound should still be there, it struggles to find it. The fatigue on the brain and lack of stimuli can result in cognitive decline that raises your risk of dementia later in life. Studies show that memory loss and cognitive decline is about 40 percent greater in seniors with hearing loss. People have been shown, even more compellingly, to increase their cognitive ability if they have hearing loss and they get hearing aids.
2. Stomach Trouble
That seems like a stretch, but it’s not. The changes you experience because of hearing loss have been associated with side effects like:
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach
The constant stress can cause intestinal issues like:
- Abdominal cramps
Irritable bowel syndrome or other more serious conditions will develop as the discomfort increases.
3. Mental Health Concerns
The most significant side effect is probably the affect hearing loss has on your mental health. A 2014 study found that an increase in depression correlates to the loss of hearing in adults under the age of 70.
The study published in the JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery found people who suffer from untreated hearing loss find it difficult communicating with others and that most likely accounts for the depression. The research suggests that for women between the ages of 18 to 69 the depression is more prominent.
Over the years, the untreated hearing loss has been connected to many mental health problems including:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of focus
Psychological strain and depression are the result when someone can’t communicate effectively and stops trying.
4. Troubled Relationships
Your physical and mental health are not the only things that are impacted by hearing loss. Statistically, if a person has hearing loss, they will probably make less money. 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 had a hard time maintaining relationships if they suffered from hearing loss. The survey showed:
- Thirty-seven percent of women questioned reported being irritated when someone who has hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
- Thirty-five percent of men Had to be pressured into getting treatment by their partner or spouse before they would agree to it.
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that hearing loss caused relationship problems
- Most women indicated that hearing loss was a significant concern when communicating with friends and family members.
Hearing loss has an effect on your relationships as well as your health and how you feel about yourself. When you get hearing aids many of these side effects go away and that’s good news. Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out what solution works best for you.