It’s natural to put off finding out about your physical limits, and hearing loss is no different. You might be thinking that you can’t hear as well as you used to, but you secretly hope it’ll go away by ignoring the issue.
Unfortunately, hearing loss is a lifelong condition, and you’ll have to face it eventually, whether you want to or not. It’s estimated that most individuals wait a decade before seeking hearing loss treatment. Hearing loss, however, is far from uncommon; in fact, it is the third most common chronic health condition facing older adults—one in three individuals over the age of 65 lives with a degree of loss of hearing.
What damage can hearing loss do in that ten-year lifespan? There are many areas where hearing loss can affect you long term, but we’ll look at two in this article: depression and dementia.
Untreated hearing loss and depression
Untreated hearing loss leads to social isolation, which means they are more likely to become depressed from a lack of contact with others.
There have also been several peer-reviewed studies that connect hearing loss and depression. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) recently conducted a study that found that 11% of people with untreated hearing loss had depression, compared to only 5% of the general population.
“We found a significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression,” said Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, an NIDCD researcher and author of the report. This study is not alone; all of them come to comparable conclusions-people with untreated hearing loss are far more likely to experience depression.
Untreated hearing loss and dementia
Keeping your wits sharp is another justification for treating hearing loss early. In a study by Johns Hopkins University, dementia is connected to hearing loss.
Untreated hearing loss leads to faster cognitive impairment, as the portions of the brain used for processing sound are used less. It has been found that people with hearing loss in their brains generally have less gray matter and have a more challenging time performing cognitive tasks.
Hopefully, it is clear what dangers lie ahead when you avoid treating any hearing loss you have – that’s why one way to help prevent depression and dementia is to get your hearing checked.
The benefits of early hearing loss treatment
It is much easier for the brain to receive incoming sound signals if you live with hearing loss in the early years of the condition. The way you process hearing has experienced fewer cognitive changes, and it is easier to respond to hearing with hearing aids.
However, it can potentially exacerbate hearing loss and sound comprehension by having hearing difficulties go untreated. In addition to the damage to the hair cells, the behavioral habits you subsequently build to process sound make it more difficult to treat hearing loss. Some sounds can become unrecognizable, and the longer hearing loss remains untreated, adapting to hearing treatment may take longer.
That’s why it is essential to be vigilant of these early signs of hearing loss:
- Conversations can sound muffled, as though you are underwater or your ears are stuffed with cotton.
- You have trouble distinguishing consonant sounds, such as ‘c’ in the word ‘cat’ and ‘s’ in the word ‘sat.’
- In crowded areas with a lot of background noise, like a restaurant, you find hearing difficult.
- You are asking people more and more to repeat themselves or speak more slowly.
- You keep turning up the volume on the TV, and it’s too loud for other people.
- You’re having trouble hearing and understanding others on the phone.
- You might also be told by your loved ones that they believe you have a hearing problem.
Hearing tests are nothing to fear.
Many individuals worry about hearing tests because they are unaware of what also occurs during one. It is essential to know that hearing tests are non-invasive, painless and that less than an hour.
The purpose of the hearing test is to determine your range of hearing abilities to provide the best treatment. The better our team’s understanding of your hearing, the better we will work with you to map a path forward. Contact us today to set up an appointment.