Hearing loss is hazardously sneaky. It creeps up on an individual through the years so gradually you hardly become aware of it , making it easy to deny or ignore. And afterwards, when you eventually recognize the signs and symptoms, you shrug it off as bothersome and irritating as its true consequences are hidden.
For close to 48 million Americans that say they experience some extent of hearing loss, the negative effects are considerably greater than only irritation and frustration.1 Here are 8 reasons why untreated hearing loss is a lot more dangerous than you might imagine:
1. Connection to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A report from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging reveals that people with hearing loss are considerably more susceptible to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, when compared with those who retain their hearing.2
Whereas the explanation for the association is ultimately unknown, scientists believe that hearing loss and dementia may share a mutual pathology, or that years and years of stressing the brain to hear could result in harm. A different hypothesis is that hearing loss quite often leads to social seclusion — a top risk factor for dementia.
No matter what the cause, restoring hearing may be the best prevention, which includes the use of hearing aids.
2. Depression and social isolation
Investigators from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, have found a strong association between hearing loss and depression among American adults of all ages and races.3
3. Not hearing alerts to danger
Automobile horns, ambulance and law enforcement sirens, and fire alarms all are engineered to alert you to possible hazards. If you miss out on these types of signals, you place yourself at an elevated risk of injury.
4. Memory impairment and mental decline
Findings suggest that individuals with hearing loss experience a 40% greater rate of decline in cognitive performance when compared to those with normal hearing.4 The top author of the investigation, Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, stated that “going forward for the next 30 or 40 years that from a public health perspective, there’s nothing more important than cognitive decline and dementia as the population ages.” that is the reason why growing awareness as to the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline is Dr. Lin’s foremost priority.
5. Lowered household income
In a study of more than 40,000 households carried out by the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss was shown to negatively affect household income up to $12,000 annually, depending on the amount of hearing loss.5 Those who used hearing aids, however, minimized this impact by 50%.
The ability to communicate on the job is essential to job performance and advancement. The fact is, communication skills are regularly ranked as the top job-related skill-set coveted by recruiters and the leading factor for promotion.
6. Auditory deprivation – use it or lose it
When considering the human body, “use it or lose it” is a mantra to live by. As an example, if we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy or shrink as time goes by, and we end up losing strength. It’s only through working out and repetitive use that we can reclaim our physical strength.
The equivalent phenomenon is applicable to hearing: as our hearing deteriorates, we get trapped in a downward spiral that only gets worse. This is recognized as auditory deprivation, and a multiplying body of research is validating the “hearing atrophy” that can manifest with hearing loss.
7. Underlying medical conditions
Although the most common cause of hearing loss is connected to age and persistent direct exposure to loud noise, hearing loss is once in a while the symptom of a more serious, underlying medical condition. Potential ailments include:
- Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- Otosclerosis – the solidifying of the middle ear bones
- Ménière’s disease – a disease of the inner ear affecting hearing and balance
- Traumatic injuries
- Infections, earwax buildup, or blockages from foreign objects
- Medications – there are more than 200 medications and chemicals that are known to cause hearing and balance issues
Because of the severity of some of the conditions, it is important that any hearing loss is promptly evaluated.
8. Increased risk of falls
Research has revealed numerous links between hearing loss and dangerous conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. A further study carried out by specialists at Johns Hopkins University has uncovered still another discouraging connection: the link between hearing loss and the risk of falls.6
The study reveals that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were roughly three times more likely to have a record of falling. And for every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss, the likelihood of falling increased by 1.4 times.
Don’t wait to get your hearing tested
The positive part to all of this negative research is the suggestion that preserving or restoring your hearing can help to limit or eliminate these risks entirely. For individuals that now have normal hearing, it is more important than ever to look after it. And for individuals struggling with hearing loss, it’s imperative to seek the help of a hearing specialist right away.
- Hearing Loss Association of America: Basic Facts About Hearing Loss
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked in Study
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: NIDCD Researchers Find Strong Link between Hearing Loss and Depression in Adults
- Medscape: Hearing Loss Linked to Cognitive Decline, Impairment
- Better Hearing Institute: The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Hearing Loss Linked to Three-Fold Risk of Falling