Risks of Untreated Hearing Loss
More than Just hearing
Researchers have established that many chronic conditions are associated with hearing loss. Ranging from diabetes to depression, these issues can either cause or be caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss often happens so gradually that you don't notice it, or if you do, you think it's because they mumble or don't talk loud enough. Or, maybe you are aware you're suffering from hearing loss, but think it's easier to ignore it or find it difficult to get help. Unfortunately, allowing hearing loss to remain untreated can lead to some serious consequences and the effects can have serious impacts on your quality of life.
Fact: Those who have been diagnosed with hearing loss wait, on average, seven years before seeking treatment.
The six most common health issues associated with hearing loss include:
1. The Social-emotional effects
Not surprisingly, researchers believe that links between hearing loss and loneliness exist. Those living with undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss inadvertently trend into social isolation as they avoid interactions where they cannot hear what is being said. Without consistent contact with family, friends and our community, life can become lonely and isolated.
Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a number of emotional health conditions, including:
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
2. Depression and Mental Health
The loneliness and social isolation associated with hearing loss can lead to depression. Being unable to hear properly and being unable to understand what those are saying in a conversation can turn into anger or depression.
Fact: Individuals with untreated hearing loss are twice as likely to be depressed than those who have normal hearing or those with hearing loss who wear hearing devices.
3. Dangerous Falls
Falls are the leading causes of injuries among the elderly population, in fact, they are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
- Research has shown that people who suffer from hearing loss have a 1.4-fold increased odds of falling.
- A 2012 study at Johns Hopkins University found that untreatedhearing loss results in a THREE-FOLDincrease in falling.
- A mild degree of hearing loss TRIPLES the risk of an accidental fall. And this risk increases by 140 percentfor every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss.
- Every 14 SECONDS an older adult is treated in an EMERGENCY ROOM for a fall.
- 1/3 of the population over 65 falls each year.
4. Cardiovascular disease
A 2009 study indicated that individuals low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as ‘at risk’ for a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack.
Researchers have also found a link between diabetes and hearing loss. According to recent research, high blood glucose levels may damage the vessels in the nerve impacting the cochlea, which in turn can cause hearing loss.
6. Cognitive impairment and dementia
In addition to the impacts on your emotional wellbeing, untreated hearing loss can also affect your cognitive health. When your ability to hear declines, your brain receives less stimulation than it typically would because it’s not working to identify different sounds and nuances. Over time, this lack of "exercise" for your brain can lead to memory loss or even dementia. Think of your brain in the same way you think of your body; if you work out the different muscle groups of your body, you remain healthy overall. However, if you instead only focused on one specific area, the other parts of your body become weaker. This is how untreated hearing loss impacts your brain. The portion of your brain responsible for transmitting and interpreting sound becomes degenerates, which research has tied to cognitive decline and early-onset of dementia.
Check out this video from our friend fellow Audiologist Dr Cliff Olson to hear more.
We are Here to Help
The best way to know how to get help is to schedule an appointment with one of our Audiologists. We will determine the type and degree of hearing loss you have and evaluate the impact it is having on your quality of life and overall well-being. From there, we'll work with you to build a treatment plan that fits your treatment needs, preferences, and budget. If you think you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss, don't delay another day.