What are the risks of untreated hearing loss?
Hearing loss is quite common among a large portion of the population, but it isn’t rare for people with hearing loss to leave it untreated for long periods of time. What many don’t realize is that there are a concerning number of risks associated with untreated hearing loss.
It often takes 7 years on average before an individual seeks treatment which may be caused by frustration, believing it’s a sign of aging, difficulties finding a treatment plan or simply their unawareness of the condition.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing towards the unintended risks of untreated hearing loss that can have significant consequences. Cognitive, psychological and safety risks are often interlinked with many symptoms occurring at the same time that negatively affects a person’s quality of life.
Untreated hearing loss causing cognitive decline and mental fatigue
One risk of untreated hearing loss is a decline in cognitive health, as found in a study from John Hopkins University.
How does this happen?
The brain is responsible for identifying and transmitting the sounds we hear every day. When an individual has hearing loss, there is less sound travelling to the brain and therefore, the brain isn’t working as much as it typically would with normal hearing abilities.
If hearing loss is left untreated for a long period of time, the lack of stimulation causes the brain tissue to begin to deteriorate (also known as brain atrophy), the nerves can get rewired for different functions and it becomes harder for the brain to recognize sounds.
Think of it this way. If an individual’s hobby is running and they go for an hour-long run every day, then stop for months, their body begins to decline in muscle strength and stamina.
That is what can happen to the brain when hearing loss is left untreated. The lack of exercise can cause mental fatigue as the brain struggles to process sounds, as found in the John Hopkins University study.
The decline in emotional wellbeing and untreated hearing loss
Untreated hearing loss risks an individual’s cognitive abilities and brain health, but it also certainly can greatly impact their emotional well-being.
Many studies have shown that untreated hearing loss is linked to emotional and mental health conditions, often resulting in the following:
● Depression and fatigue
● Anxiety, tension and stress
● Anger, frustration and negativity
● Avoidance or isolation from social situations
● Social rejection and loneliness
● Lack of alertness and increased risk to personal safety
● Difficulty remembering things or learning new tasks
● Decreased job performance and progression
Often, individuals with hearing loss tend to withdraw from large group settings or loud sound environments because they struggle to hear and understand their peers, both personally and professionally.
This is a risk factor because increased withdrawal from social situations with friends or family can lead to depression and anxiety. It causes strains on relationships and can leave an individual with hearing loss feeling lonely and with low self-esteem.
Professionally, being involved in large work gatherings, meeting with clients, and interacting with customers while struggling with hearing can cause a lot of anxiety.
It can be stressful because of the importance of work discussions, the number of conversations occurring at once and noisy sound environments, making it overwhelming and harder to hear.
Safety risks associated with untreated hearing loss
One of the most overlooked risks of untreated hearing loss is the lack of safety for an individual with difficulty hearing.
Individuals with hearing loss may miss warning signs of danger such as fire alarms, sirens, a door opening or shutting, glass breaking or someone shouting at them. It puts those with untreated hearing loss at greater risk of injury.
In fact, hearing greatly contributes to a person’s balance because our ears pick up very subtle cues as we walk that help to keep us upright and balanced. For an individual with hearing loss, they can’t hear these essential signals which makes it much easier to have a dangerous fall.
Not to mention, their brain has to work much harder just to process sounds, causing increased multitasking in the subconscious that can interfere with the mental processing needed to walk safely.
The risk of falling is three times more likely and injuries are 50 percent more likely for individuals with hearing loss, according to John Hopkins Medicine studies.
Why you should treat your hearing loss
There is only one way to treat hearing loss and that is to use hearing aids. The pros massively outweigh the cons and with new technology that continues to advance, you’ll find that hearing aids aren’t what they used to be.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), invisible hearing aid models, rechargeable batteries, Bluetooth streaming and audio control on a smartphone app is just the tip of the iceberg.
The risk of untreated hearing loss has the potential to greatly diminish an individual’s quality of life, but once treated, they can start to enjoy their day-to-day.
They can fully get immersed in conversations again, feel safer when at home by themselves, hear the sound of birds chirping or frogs croaking when going for a nature walk and experience a world full of all the sounds they couldn’t hear before
Do you have an untreated hearing loss?
If you are living with an untreated hearing loss or suspect you have hearing loss, the passionate, dedicated and experienced hearing professionals at NexGen Hearing are here to help you experience an improved quality of life and support you on your journey to better hearing.
NexGen Hearing provides free hearing tests, hearing aid consultations and sales, and much more at over 45 clinics in the BC Interior, Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.