Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Treat Your Hearing Loss

Atlanta Hearing Associates' Blog.

We all procrastinate, regularly talking ourselves out of challenging or uncomfortable tasks in favor of something more pleasing or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will at some point get around to whatever we’re currently working to avoid.

Often times, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might wish to clear out the basement, for example, by throwing out or donating the items we rarely use. A clean basement sounds good, but the work of actually lugging things to the donation center is not so pleasant. In the interest of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to notice myriad alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so benign, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright dangerous. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing examination, current research reveals that neglected hearing loss has serious physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you have to begin with the impact of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a recognizable analogy: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what occurs after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle size and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t consistently use your muscles, they get weaker.

The same thing takes place with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sounds, your ability to process auditory information grows weaker. Scientists even have a name for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”

Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but persisted to not use the muscles, relying on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get progressively weaker. The same occurs with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the a smaller amount of sound stimulation your brain gets, and the worse your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which results in a host of additional conditions current research is continuing to reveal. For example, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University showed that those with hearing loss encounter a 40% drop in cognitive function in comparison to those with normal hearing, as well as an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

General cognitive decline also brings about substantial mental and social effects. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) detected that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to join in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

So what starts out as an inconvenience—not being able to hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that disturbs all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately leads to social isolation, wounded relationships, and an elevated 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 example one last time. Right after the cast comes off, you start working out and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you regain 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 recover 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 almost every area of their lives.

Are you ready to achieve the same improvement?

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.