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According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIH), “approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.” With this reported prevalence, more people are likely affected by hearing loss but choose not to treat it or do not even realize it is a problem they are experiencing. For those who decide to keep it untreated due to ignorance or any other reason, the risks to their health are incredibly high. But what are those risks, and how are those who have untreated hearing loss affected in the long term?
What’s The Impact?
Hearing loss has more of an impact than just on what the patient can or cannot hear. Your ears do more than just take in and process sound. Hearing loss may lead to a higher rate of brain atrophy, according to brain scans. Your ears pick up small clues that help you with your balance while you walk. These vital messages are drowned out by hearing loss. Lastly, social isolation is exacerbated by hearing loss. You may not want to be around people as often as you used to, and when you are, you may not want to engage in conversation as much as you used to. This can lead to an increased risk of early dementia.
Emotional Health Risks
Concerning one’s physical and mental health, hearing loss can genuinely take a toll. First, those with hearing loss are at risk of overall diminished psychological and overall health. While hearing loss is technically a physical ailment, it can cause severe psychological effects due to its impairment in one’s everyday life. Patients with hearing loss are more likely to experience fatigue, tension, stress, depression, anxiety, and other problems that affect their ability to function normally. They can also experience increased irritability, negativism, and anger. Hard-of-hearing patients can also have impaired memory and difficulty mastering new tasks. Lastly, those with untreated hearing loss are at greater risk by their reduced alertness. This reduction in alertness and ability to concentrate can lead to severe risks to their safety.
Risk of Cognitive Decline
Untreated hearing loss can have a negative influence on your cognitive health as well as your emotional well-being. When a patient loses their ability to hear even slightly, the brain is not being used to its fullest potential in attempting to determine the source and purpose of different sounds. This can result in the brain becoming weaker. Similar to other muscle groups, the brain needs exercise to maintain its strength. If you lose your ability to hear, you may also experience your memory, thinking, and learning problems. Ultimately, this may lead to an increased risk of dementia and/or memory loss.
Patients with hearing loss may have varying severity of symptoms. However, an association has been found with higher levels of untreated hearing loss and social withdrawal. These patients may feel lonely or isolated. The likelihood of experiencing loneliness is higher for people with hearing loss than for non- hard-of-hearing individuals. They may experience less social interaction and fewer opportunities to socialize with others. They may also be more likely to have difficulty communicating with others. All of these factors may increase their avoidance and/or withdrawal from social situations.
Overall, those affected with hearing loss can be at risk of far more than hearing-related issues. From physical, mental, and/or social declines, the risks are plentiful if left untreated. If you or someone you love is affected by hearing loss at any level, contact an audiologist nearest you. If you are looking for an audiologist local to the Lafayette area, contact the specialists at Camellia ENT today at 337-993-1335!