Hearing loss is treacherously sneaky. It creeps up on an individual over the years so little by little you barely detect it, making it all too easy to deny it’s even there. And then, when you eventually acknowledge the symptoms, you shrug it off as troublesome and irritating because its true consequences are hidden.
For as much as 48 million American citizens that report some measure of hearing loss, the repercussions are far greater than just annoyance and frustration.1 listed below are 8 reasons why untreated hearing loss is considerably more dangerous than you may think:
1. Connection to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A report from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging indicates that individuals with hearing loss are appreciably more likely to suffer from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who retain their ability to hear.2
Even though the reason for the link is ultimately undetermined, experts believe that hearing loss and dementia may share a shared pathology, or that a long time of stressing the brain to hear could cause harm. An additional theory is that hearing loss commonly causes social solitude — a top risk factor for dementia.
Irrespective of the cause, repairing hearing could very well be the best prevention, including 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 observed a strong link between hearing loss and depression among American 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 warn you to possible dangers. If you miss these types of indicators, you place yourself at an increased 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 function when compared to people with normal hearing.4 The leading 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 growing awareness as to the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline is Dr. Lin’s leading priority.
5. Reduced household income
In a survey of over 40,000 households carried out by the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss was found to negatively affect household income by as much as $12,000 annually, based on the measure of hearing loss.5 individuals who wore hearing aids, however, minimized this impact by 50%.
The ability to communicate at work is essential to job performance and advancement. In fact, communication skills are perpetually ranked as the top job-related skill-set coveted 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 saying to live by. For instance, if we don’t make use of our muscles, they atrophy or reduce in size as time passes, and we end up losing strength. It’s only through working out and repeated use that we can recoup our physical strength.
The same phenomenon is true to hearing: as our hearing degrades, we get trapped in a downward spiral that only gets worse. This is known as auditory deprivation, and a continuously growing body of research is confirming the “hearing atrophy” that can take place with hearing loss.
7. Underlying medical conditions
Although the most common cause of hearing loss is related to age and regular exposure to loud noise, hearing loss is at times the symptom of a more severe, underlying medical condition. Possible conditions include:
- Heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- Otosclerosis – the solidifying 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 problems
As a result of the severity of some of the conditions, it is imperative that any hearing loss is rapidly assessed.
8. Increased risk of falls
Research has exposed a large number of links between hearing loss and serious diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. A further study conducted by specialists at Johns Hopkins University has uncovered yet another discouraging connection: the connection between hearing loss and the risk of falls.6
The research indicates that individuals with a 25-decibel hearing loss, categorized as mild, were just about three times more likely to have a record of falling. And for every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss, the likelihood of falling increased by 1.4 times.
Don’t wait to get your hearing tested
The favorable side to all of this pessimistic research is the suggestion that protecting or repairing your hearing can help to diminish or eliminate these risks entirely. For those of you that have normal hearing, it is more important than ever to take care of it. And for all those struggling with hearing loss, it’s imperative to seek the services of a hearing specialist as soon as possible.
- 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