Hearing loss is hazardously sneaky. It creeps up on a person through the years so slowly you scarcely become aware of it , making it all too easy to deny it’s even there. And afterwards, when you finally recognize the signs and symptoms, you shrug it off as bothersome and aggravating as its real effects are hidden.
For approximately 48 million Americans that report some amount of hearing loss, the repercussions are significantly greater than merely annoyance and frustration.1 Here are 8 reasons why untreated hearing loss is more dangerous than you may imagine:
1. Connection to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A report from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging suggests that people with hearing loss are substantially more likely to suffer from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, in comparison with people who preserve their hearing.2
While the cause for the connection is ultimately undetermined, experts sense that hearing loss and dementia could possibly share a common pathology, or that a long time of straining the brain to hear could bring on damage. An additional theory is that hearing loss often times results in social separation — a chief risk factor for dementia.
No matter what the cause, restoring hearing may very well be the best prevention, including 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 discovered a strong connection between hearing impairment and depression among American adults of all ages and races.3
3. Not hearing alerts to danger
Car horns, ambulance and law enforcement sirens, and fire alarms all are developed to warn you to potential danger. If you miss these types of signals, you put yourself at an increased risk of injury.
4. Memory impairment and mental decline
Studies indicate that individuals with hearing loss see a 40% larger rate of decrease in cognitive ability in comparison to those with healthy hearing.4 The main author of the study, Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, said 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 highest priority.
5. Reduced household income
In a study of more than 40,000 households conducted by the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss was found to negatively affect household income by as much as $12,000 annually, dependent on the amount of hearing loss.5 Those who wore hearing aids, however, cut this impact by 50%.
The capacity to communicate on the job is vital to job performance and advancement. The fact is, communication skills are constantly ranked as the top job-related skill-set targeted by managers and the top factor for promotion.
6. Auditory deprivation – use it or lose it
When considering the human body, “use it or lose it” is a motto to live by. For example, if we don’t make use of our muscles, they atrophy or reduce in size as time goes by, and we end up losing strength. It’s only through working out and repeated use that we can recover our physical strength.
The the exact same phenomenon is applicable to hearing: as our hearing weakens, we get stuck in a descending spiral that only gets worse. This is identified as auditory deprivation, and a developing body of research is strengthening the “hearing atrophy” that can appear with hearing loss.
7. Underlying medical conditions
Even though the most common cause of hearing loss is connected to age and lasting direct exposure to loud sound, hearing loss is in some cases the symptom of a more serious, underlying medical condition. Potential conditions include:
- Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- Otosclerosis – the hardening of the middle ear bones
- Ménière’s disease – a disease 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
As a consequence of the seriousness of some of the conditions, it is recommended that any hearing loss is rapidly assessed.
8. Greater risk of falls
Research has exposed a number connections between hearing loss and serious ailments like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. An additional study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has revealed yet another discouraging connection: the link between hearing loss and the risk of falls.6
The research shows that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. And for every extra 10-decibels of hearing loss, the probability of falling increased by 1.4 times.
Don’t wait to get your hearing tested
The favorable part to all of this negative research is the suggestion that preserving or recovering your hearing can help to lessen or eliminate these risks completely. For all those that currently have normal hearing, it is more vital than ever to take care of it. And for the people struggling 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