We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of difficult or uncomfortable activities in favor of something more pleasant or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will eventually get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.
Usually, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might hope to clean out the basement, for example, by tossing or donating the items we seldom use. A clean basement sounds great, but the task of actually lugging things to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the interest of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to notice myriad alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.
In other cases, procrastination is not so harmless, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, current research indicates that neglected hearing loss has significant physical, mental, and social consequences.
To understand why, you have to begin with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a popular comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what will happen after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle size and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t repeatedly make use of your muscles, they get weaker.
The same thing takes place with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sound, your capability to process auditory information becomes weaker. Scientists even have a term for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”
Returning to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but persisted to not use the muscles, depending 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 ignore your hearing loss, the a smaller amount of sound stimulation your brain gets, and the more impaired your hearing gets.
That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which can cause a host of other ailments recent research is continuing to unearth. For example, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University reported that those with hearing loss encounter a 40% drop in cognitive function compared to those with normal hearing, in addition to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Overall cognitive decline also contributes to dangerous mental and social consequences. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) discovered that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
So what starts out as an annoyance—not having the capability hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that disturbs all aspects of your health. The chain of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, strained relationships, and an enhanced risk of developing serious medical issues.
The Benefits of Hearing Aids
So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one more time. As soon as the cast comes off, you begin working out and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recoup your muscle mass and strength.
The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you enhance the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recuperate 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, as reported by The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in virtually every area of their lives.
Are you ready to accomplish the same improvement?