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We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of stressful or uncomfortable chores in favor of something more pleasing or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will sooner or later get around to whatever we’re presently trying to avoid.

Usually, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might aim to clear out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the items we seldom use. A clean basement sounds good, but the process of actually hauling things to the donation center is not so satisfying. In the concern of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to find innumerable alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so benign, 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 test, the latest research reveals that neglected hearing loss has severe physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you need to begin with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a popular analogy: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you understand what occurs after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle size and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t regularly make use of your muscles, they get weaker.

The same occurs with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sound, your capability to process auditory information gets weaker. Scientists even have a term for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”

Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but continued to not use the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get steadily weaker. The same occurs with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the less sound stimulation your brain gets, and the more impaired your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which can cause a variety of other consequences the newest research is continuing to uncover. For instance, a study directed by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss suffer from a 40% drop in cognitive function compared to those with regular hearing, in addition to an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Overall cognitive decline also results in severe mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) established that those with untreated hearing loss were much 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 begins as an aggravation—not having the capability hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that affects all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which leads to general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately leads to social isolation, wounded relationships, and an increased 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 example one more time. Immediately after the cast comes off, you start exercising and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recoup your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again applies to hearing. If you heighten the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can repair your brain’s ability to process and comprehend sound. This leads to better communication, improved 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 nearly every aspect of their lives.

Are you ready to accomplish the same improvement?

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