Most people picture an elderly person saying “what’s that sonny” when they picture hearing loss. Hearing loss affects more than just your ability to hear and has increased dramatically among all age groups. There are surprising health consequences for people who ignore it. Based only on these four, it’s worth having your hearing checked.
1. Mental Decline
While you may not have previously known it, hearing loss can affect your general health. Brain health and cognitive function are the most significant examples. Some conditions commonly connected to aging are actually caused by hearing loss.
The brain’s innate ability to adapt to sensory changes backfires when it comes to hearing. Sound is processed through the inner ear in a way the brain can understand if hearing is normal. The difference between the music playing on your car radio and the music the ice cream truck plays as it heads down the street is sorted out by this mechanism.
Even if you’re not aware of it, the brain experiences sound every microsecond. If you are resting in a quiet room, there is still ambient noise around you, like the hiss of air blowing through the AC vent. Your brain filters it out because it decides you don’t need to hear 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 loss of hearing. It still expects it to be there, though and struggles to find it. The absence of stimuli causes the brain to stress leading to cognitive decline and a greater risk of dementia. Studies show that memory loss and cognitive decline is around 40 percent greater in seniors with hearing loss. People have been shown, even more compellingly, to increase their cognitive functions if they have hearing loss and they invest in hearing aids.
2. Gut Trouble
That seems like it might seem far-fetched, but it’s not. Side effects connected to changes you experience due to hearing loss are:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
The constant stress can cause intestinal problems like:
- Abdominal cramps
More serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome will occur as your discomfort increases.
3. Mental Health Problems
Probably, the most noticeable side effect is the impact hearing loss has on your mental health. A 2014 study found that a decline in hearing correlates to an increase in depression in adults under the age of 70.
The depression is most likely accounted for by the fact that people who suffer from hearing loss have a hard time communicating with others, according to JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery. The research suggests that for women between the ages of 18 to 69 the depression is more pronounced.
Over the years, many mental health conditions have been connected to untreated hearing loss such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of focus
People who can’t successfully communicate stop trying and that leads to sadness 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.
Hearing loss causes problems in personal relationships, as well. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents had a hard time maintaining relationships if they suffered from hearing loss. The survey showed:
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that hearing loss caused relationship problems
- Most women indicated relationships with family members and friends were a significant concern with the hearing loss
- Thirty-five percent of men Had to be pressured into getting treatment by their partner or spouse before they would agree to it.
- Thirty-seven percent of women interviewed reported being irritated when someone who has hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
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 option works best for you.