Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Treat Your Hearing Loss

We all procrastinate, regularly talking ourselves out of strenuous or unpleasant tasks in favor of something more pleasurable or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will sooner or later get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.

Sometimes, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might want to clean out the basement, for example, by throwing out or donating the things we never use. A clean basement sounds good, but the task of actually hauling items to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to find innumerable alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so innocent, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright dangerous. While no one’s idea of a good time is getting a hearing exam, recent research suggests that untreated hearing loss has serious physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you have to start with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a well-known analogy: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know about what happens after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle mass and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t repeatedly make use of your muscles, they get weaker.

The same happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sounds, your capability to process auditory information becomes weaker. Researchers even have a term for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”

Returning to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but continued to not use the muscles, relying 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 less sound stimulation your brain gets, and the worse your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which can cause a variety of other health problems current research is continuing to unearth. For instance, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that those with hearing loss experience a 40% drop in cognitive function compared to those with normal hearing, in addition to an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

General cognitive decline also leads to dangerous mental and social effects. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) observed that those with neglected hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to partake in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.

So what begins as an inconvenience—not having the capability hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that affects all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, wounded relationships, and an increased 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 more time. Once the cast comes off, you begin working out and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again applies to hearing. If you heighten the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recuperate your brain’s ability to process and comprehend sound. This leads to better communication, better 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 aspect of their lives.

Are you ready to achieve the same improvement?