An elderly person with an old-fashioned hearing aid saying “what’s that sonny”, is what many people think about when hearing loss is discussed. The fact is, hearing loss has escalated sharply among all age groups and it has an effect on more than just your ability to hear. There are alarming health effects for people who ignore it. These four by themselves make it worth having your hearing checked.
1. Cognitive Decline
There is a connection between hearing loss and other health issues, although you might not have previously known about them. Brain health and cognitive function are the most serious examples. There is evidence that some conditions people connect with aging, like memory loss, may actually be caused by hearing decline.
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 coming from your car radio and the music the ice cream truck plays as it heads down the street is sorted out by this mechanism.
The brain encounters sound every microsecond whether you think you are hearing something or not. There is still ambient sound around you even if you are relaxing in a quiet room, such as air hissing in through a vent. Your brain interprets this as a sound you don’t need to hear, so you don’t notice it.
This stimulus is something the brain comes to expect. All of a sudden, when there is loss of hearing, the brain doesn’t get the same quality or quantity of sound. It strains to find the missing sound believing it should still be present. The fatigue on the brain and lack of stimuli can result in cognitive decline that raises your chances of dementia later on in your life. Seniors have a forty percent higher rate of memory loss and cognitive decline if they suffer from hearing loss, according to studies. Even more compelling is the fact that people have been shown to improve their cognitive ability if they have hearing loss and invest in hearing aids.
2. Stomach Issues
That’s not as much of a stretch as it seems. The changes you experience due to hearing loss have been connected to side effects like:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
The continuous stress can cause intestinal problems like:
- Abdominal cramps
As the discomfort increases, you could end up with a more severe intestinal condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
3. Mental Health Problems
The most significant side effect is probably the impact hearing loss has on your mental health. A 2014 study found that in adults below the age of 70, an increase in depression correlates to a decline in hearing.
The study published in the JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery found people who have untreated hearing loss find it difficult communicating with others and that probably is the reason for the depression. The research suggests that for women between the ages of 18 to 69 the depression is more pronounced.
Over the years, the neglected hearing loss has been connected to many mental health conditions including:
- Lack of focus
- Social withdrawal
Psychological strain and depression are the outcome when a person can’t communicate effectively and stops trying.
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 20,000 dollars per year less is made by individuals with hearing loss in comparison to their hearing colleagues.
Personal relationships also suffer because of hearing loss. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents had a hard time maintaining relationships if they suffered from hearing loss. The survey showed:
- Most women indicated that hearing loss was a significant concern when communicating with friends and family members.
- Thirty-five percent of men reported they agreed to treatment for hearing loss because their spouse or partner pressured them into it
- Forty-three percent of men indicated that they had trouble with relationships due to their hearing loss
- Thirty-seven percent of women questioned reported getting frustrated when someone who has hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
Your self-esteem and the state of your health are affected by hearing loss. It also has an effect on your relationships. When you get hearing aids quite a few of these side effects go away and that’s good news. Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to find out what course of action is best for you.