Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Treat Your Hearing Loss
We all put things off, routinely talking ourselves out of complex or uncomfortable tasks in favor of something more pleasurable or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will at some point get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.
Usually, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might hope to clean out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the items we seldom use. A clean basement sounds great, but the work of actually lugging things to the donation center is not so pleasant. In the concern of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to find myriad alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.
In other cases, procrastination is not so innocuous, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright dangerous. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing test, current research suggests that neglected hearing loss has major physical, mental, and social consequences.
To understand why, you have to begin with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a popular comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what happens after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle volume and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t frequently utilize your muscles, they get weaker.
The same takes place with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sound, your ability to process auditory information gets weaker. Researchers even have a name for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”
Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but persisted to not make use of the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get steadily weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the a smaller amount of sound stimulation your brain gets, and the more impaired your hearing gets.
That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which produces a host of additional conditions current research is continuing to identify. For example, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University showed that those with hearing loss suffer from a 40% drop in cognitive function when compared to those with regular hearing, in addition to an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Generalized cognitive decline also brings about serious mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) discovered that those with neglected hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to take part in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.
So what starts out as an annoyance—not being able to hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that impacts all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an enhanced risk of developing serious medical conditions.
The Benefits of Hearing Aids
So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one last time. Once the cast comes off, you begin exercising and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you regain your muscle mass and strength.
The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you increase the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can regain your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, improved psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, according to The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in virtually every area of their lives.
Are you ready to experience the same improvement?