By: Dana Luzon, Au.D., FAAA, Board-Certified Doctor of Audiology
Most hearing loss presents gradually over many years, making it difficult to notice. Many people feel that hearing loss is just a natural part of the aging process and is not necessary to treat immediately after they are diagnosed. In fact, most people wait 7 years to seek treatment for hearing loss after they first experience difficulty. What most do not know is that if hearing loss is left untreated, it has many side effects that can affect mental and physical health as well as quality of life.
Physical side effects of hearing loss
Physical side effects can occur due to physically straining to hear during conversation. This can cause tense muscles, fatigue, and increased blood pressure. In addition, a recent study indicated that people with mild hearing loss are three times more likely to have a history of falling. Individuals with untreated hearing loss may not have appropriate access to the sounds of their environment to keep themselves alert and safe.
Mental side effects of hearing loss
A lot of evidence has come forth in the last few years that untreated hearing loss can result in cognitive decline. There is research that indicates older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia. As their hearing loss gets worse, their risk increases. In fact, a recent study revealed that older adults with hearing loss have a rate of cognitive decline that is up to 30–40% faster than the rate in those with normal hearing. Hearing aids can actually reduce the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Untreated hearing loss can also result in depression in older adults. Adults 50 years and older with untreated hearing loss were found to be less likely to participate in organized social activities than peers who wore hearing aids. The extra effort it takes to follow along with conversation with a hearing loss can make communication more tiring. Sometimes hearing loss can be misinterpreted as confusion or dementia by a loved one if they are not answered correctly or at all.
Emotional side effects of hearing loss
As an audiologist, I hear an emotional plea for help from the patient and their loved one during the consultation appointment. Perhaps the most distressing is the sense of detachment created by the increased difficulty in communicating with those close to you. It can be stressful asking people to repeat themselves or ask for clarification when you don’t understand what’s being said. Friends or family members who feel they haven’t been heard over time may become frustrated or resentful. Other emotions can include anger, embarrassment, isolation, loneliness, withdrawal, and decreased enjoyment of social activities. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect one person, but their loved ones as well.
37.5 million Americans 18 years or older report trouble hearing. It is consistently shown that hearing aid users report significant improvements in many areas of their lives, ranging from their relationships at home and sense of independence to their social life. Family members of hearing aid users also note the quality of life improvements.
Restore the treasured connections of your life through improved communication, closer relationships and better hearing. Don’t wait to make better hearing a part of your everyday life.
Audiology & Hearing Aids of the Palm Beaches
561. 627. 3552
4266 Northlake Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410