When you think of hearing loss, do you think of a minor annoyance? An inevitable part of aging? Something so insignificant that you don’t remember the last time you had a hearing evaluation? Or do you think of a health condition that could have serious impacts on your overall health and well-being? One that should be diagnosed and treated early to prevent some of the most common and devastating health conditions out there?
While hearing loss is becoming more and more common and the research on the effects of untreated hearing loss, more and more concerning, many still dismiss it as a minor inconvenience or not serious enough to do anything about it.
Hearing healthcare providers and experts warn this thinking could be a big mistake.
It is reported that approximately 37 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Of those, only a fraction seek treatment and choose to wear hearing aids. Whether it’s a belief that hearing loss is too minor to need treatment, financial reasons, fear of doctors, stigma, or something else, many leave their hearing health and long-term health to chance. According to the growing body of research on hearing loss and how untreated hearing loss can affect us, there’s more to it than just a few missed words in a conversation.
Whether it’s you or someone you love, here’s why we should all take hearing loss more seriously:
Increased risk of falls
According to a study out of Johns Hopkins, untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of falls, which in turn can lead to broken bones and a general decline in health. The underlying reason for this increased risk is unclear, but it’s hard to ignore the correlation.
Increased risk of anxiety
According to the results of a study by the National Council on Aging, “The Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss in Older Persons,” anxiety is not an uncommon complaint of those with untreated hearing loss. The good news out of the study was that those using hearing aids and similar treatments for hearing loss saw a reduced risk of anxiety and a better quality of life.
That’s right. Untreated hearing loss could affect your paycheck in the worst possible way. Studies have linked both unemployment and underemployment to untreated hearing loss, and according to “The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income” report from the Better Hearing Institute, this may often be linked to impaired job performance.
Increased health care costs. According to a Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health study, untreated hearing loss may affect not only income but also health care costs. The team found that older adults with untreated hearing loss often end up paying “substantially higher total health care costs compared to those who don’t have hearing loss.”
Increased risk of depression
It’s not surprising that untreated hearing loss can lead to mental health concerns such as anxiety, social isolation, and eventually depression as communication becomes frustrating and social activities more difficult. More than one study, including the report Consequences of Uncorrected Hearing Loss, has highlighted this link.
Increased risk of cognitive decline
Many of the research findings now coming out, show the significant link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. While the exact reasons are still being investigated, it’s hard to argue the impact on the brain.
Untreated hearing loss is more serious than many people realize. If you or someone you love has signs of hearing loss, don’t brush it aside. Schedule a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional today to start treating it.