Hearing loss is treacherously sneaky. It creeps up on you through the years so gradually you barely notice, making it easy to deny or ignore. And then, when you finally acknowledge the signs and symptoms, you shrug it off as troublesome and annoying because its true consequences are hidden.
For close to 48 million Americans that report some degree of hearing loss, the negative effects are much greater than simply aggravation and frustration.1 listed below are 8 reasons why untreated hearing loss is far more dangerous than you may think:
1. Link to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A report from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging suggests that those with hearing loss are appreciably more susceptible to suffer from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who sustain their ability to hear.2
Although the explanation for the connection is ultimately undetermined, researchers believe that hearing loss and dementia might share a shared pathology, or that several years of straining the brain to hear could produce harm. An additional explanation is that hearing loss quite often leads to social solitude — a prominent 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
Researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, have detected a strong association between hearing impairment and depression among U.S. adults of all ages and races.3
3. Not hearing alerts to danger
Automobile horns, ambulance and police sirens, and fire alarms all are engineered to notify you to possible hazards. If you miss these indicators, you put yourself at an higher risk of injury.
4. Memory impairment and mental decline
Reports reveal that individuals with hearing loss face a 40% greater rate of decline in cognitive ability in contrast to those with regular hearing.4 The leading 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’s why increasing awareness as to the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline is Dr. Lin’s foremost priority.
5. Lowered household income
In a survey of over 40,000 households performed by the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss was found to negatively affect household income up to $12,000 annually, based on the extent of hearing loss.5 individuals who wore hearing aids, however, reduced this impact by 50%.
The ability to communicate at the job is critical to job performance and promotion. In fact, communication skills are time and again ranked as the number one job-related skill-set sought after by employers and the top factor for promotion.
6. Auditory deprivation – use it or lose it
In regard to the human body, “use it or lose it” is a saying to live by. For example, if we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy or shrink over time, and we end up losing strength. It’s only through exercise and repetitive use that we can reclaim our physical strength.
The same phenomenon is true to hearing: as our hearing deteriorates, we get ensnared in a downward spiral that only gets worse. This is known as auditory deprivation, and a ever-increasing body of research is validating the “hearing atrophy” that can arise with hearing loss.
7. Underlying medical conditions
Despite the fact that the most common cause of hearing loss is connected to age and repeated direct exposure to loud noise, hearing loss is from time to time the symptom of a more significant, underlying medical condition. Potential conditions include:
- Heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- Otosclerosis – the solidifying of the middle ear bones
- Ménière’s disease – a condition of the inner ear affecting hearing and balance
- Traumatic injuries
- Infections, earwax buildup, or obstructions from foreign objects
- Medications – there are more than 200 medications and chemicals that are known to cause hearing and balance issues
Owing to the seriousness of some of the conditions, it is essential that any hearing loss is immediately assessed.
8. Increased risk of falls
Research has found a number of connections between hearing loss and serious conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. An additional study conducted by specialists at Johns Hopkins University has uncovered still another disheartening connection: the connection between hearing loss and the risk of falls.6
The study shows that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, characterized as mild, were just about three times more likely to have a record of falling. And for every extra 10-decibels of hearing loss, the likelihood of falling increased by 1.4 times.
Don’t wait to get your hearing tested
The encouraging side to all of this negative research is the suggestion that protecting or repairing your hearing can help to decrease or eliminate these risks completely. For all those that have normal hearing, it is more important than ever to protect it. And for individuals suffering with hearing loss, it’s imperative to seek the help of a hearing specialist without delay.
- 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