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The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss
Most people will recognize changes in their hearing long before they decide to seek treatment. On average, people wait seven years to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist and take a hearing exam. There are many factors that prohibit people from seeking treatment for hearing loss, from cost to anxiety. With so many things, avoidance may seem the better option. However, leaving hearing loss untreated affects many areas of a person’s life. Here, we explore the effects of untreated hearing loss on quality of life.
Lower Earning Power
Although 60% of the American workforce experiences some degree of hearing loss, research has found that people with untreated hearing loss tend to earn less than their counterparts with normal hearing. Untreated hearing loss interferes with sound signals that the ear receives and sends to the brain to be processed as sound. In the workplace, muffled sounds and conversations may interfere with job performance as well as one’s emotional well-being. Studies have found increased irritability, negativism, and anger in subjects with untreated hearing loss. This may hurt a person’s professionalism and job performance.
Increased Risk of Accidents, Falls, and Hospitalizations
Because our auditory system shares similar processes with our balance system, people with untreated hearing loss experience an increased risk of accidents. Within the inner ear, our vestibular system keeps track of the movements of the head and reports them to the brain. When there is a problem with this system, due to fluid in the ear or Meniere’s disease (both of which could lead to hearing loss), our balance may be off. Johns Hopkins University found that there was a link between untreated hearing loss and an increased likelihood of falls due to a “cognitive load, in which the brain is overwhelmed with demands on its limited resources,” says Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins.
Strain on Cognitive Abilities
Hearing happens in the brain. Our inner ear hair cells translate sound wave vibrations into neural signals that are registered in the brain as sound. These signals travel on well-worn auditory pathways that have been carved out over years of hearing and registering sound. Untreated hearing loss impairs the signal, sending either an incomplete or muffled signal to the brain. As such, the brain must struggle to make sense of these signals, leading to an overload on our cognitive abilities. This strain has been linked to dementia, as shown in a series of studies from Johns Hopkins.
Withdrawal from Social Interaction
Untreated hearing loss has long been linked to an increase risk of depression, stress, and anxiety. Hearing loss interferes with our ability to recognize speech, which means that social interactions with our loved ones and colleagues may become strained. The National Council on Aging says that hearing loss is “insidious,” noting that “the consequences are not obvious, but they can have psychological, cognitive, and psychosocial impacts…the inability to communicate well makes it much harder to remain an active, engaged, and contributing member of society. It is the insidious, subtle consequences in everyday situations where we need to focus the most attention.” With untreated hearing loss, people may mishear or misunderstand conversations. If good communication is the foundation of healthy relationships, untreated hearing loss may undermine this, leading to alienating consequences.
The good news: hearing loss is treatable. If you believe you are experiencing hearing loss, visit us at Hearing Aid Associates today for a hearing exam.