It is estimated that approximately 37 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Many of those 37 million are untreated. It may be for financial reasons, a reluctance to receive treatment, a fear of doctors or other personal reasons, but the truth is it can be a bigger problem than it may appear to be. Living with more limited hearing may seem like a simple choice between the normal volume on the TV and turning it up a few notches, but left untreated, hearing loss can have much more serious consequences than missing some of the conversation.
As research findings on hearing problems and their link to quality of life continue to grow, many common themes are coming to light showing just how problematic untreated hearing loss can be. Here are three ways untreated hearing loss can hurt your health:
Less Social Interaction
It’s no secret these days that social interaction can play a positive role in health. Studies have shown that quality relationships can help reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being, and even reduce your risk of death. Relationships are often cited as the most important thing for happiness. Unfortunately, hearing loss can have a negative impact on these relationships, especially when that loss goes untreated. Sometimes it’s a breakdown in communication within relationships, sometimes an avoidance of social situations for fear of confusion or appearing rude, but withdrawing from those quality relationships can damage health now and down the road.
Increased Risk of Depression
With less social interaction and increased isolation due to hearing loss, there is believed to be a higher risk of mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. According to one report on the Consequences of Uncorrected Hearing Loss, “Several studies have shown that uncorrected hearing loss gives rise to poorer quality of life, related to isolation, reduced social activity, and a feeling of being excluded, leading to an increased prevalence of symptoms of depression.” As hearing problems continue to go untreated, these feelings can compound increasing the risk of physical health problems too.
Some of the most interesting research into untreated hearing loss in recent years has been its impact on the brain. It is believed that the negative effects are two-fold:
- When there is hearing loss, the brain must work harder to listen. According to research findings, this increased effort requires extra resources from the brain, leaving less for other cognitive functions.
- While the cause is not yet fully understood and may be related to the harder working brain, some research is pointing to a link between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia.
It’s hard to deny that hearing loss, when left untreated, can pose serious consequences to overall health beyond less clarity of sound.
If you believe you or someone you know is affected by hearing loss, seek treatment to help prevent physical and mental concerns in the future. Work with an audiologist to find the best solutions for your needs. Discuss the best hearing aids to help improve your quality of life. Don’t let hearing loss impair your health!