“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people,” is a moving quote often attributed to the famed 20th-century activist and educator Helen Keller, who achieved a remarkable career championing the deaf and blind. Those with serious hearing loss often cite this quote.
Many people are aware they’re suffering from hearing loss, but find it difficult to get help. Those who have been diagnosed with hearing loss wait, on average, seven years before seeking treatment. The reasons for waiting on help vary; some are frustrated by hearing loss, believing it to be a sign of aging. Others think their condition isn’t that severe or may not even realize they have hearing problems.
Unfortunately, allowing hearing loss to remain untreated can lead to some serious consequences. The most recent studies highlight the social, psychological, cognitive and health effects of untreated hearing loss. These effects can vary as well, but all have serious impacts on your quality of life.
The emotional effects of untreated hearing loss
Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a number of emotional health conditions, including:
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
When you have hearing loss, you may experience difficulty following conversations in a group setting. Due to this problem, you’re more likely to socially withdraw from visits with friends and family, which, over time, leads to depression and anxiety. The prospect of being immersed in a work meeting or large gathering, where numerous conversations will occur, can leave you feeling anxious.
Untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline
In addition to the impacts on your emotional wellbeing, untreated hearing loss can also affect your cognitive health. When your ability to hear declines, your brain receives less stimulation than it typically would because it’s not working to identify different sounds and nuances. Over time, this lack of exercise for your brain can lead to memory loss or even dementia. Think of your brain in the same way you think of your body; if you work out the different muscle groups of your body, you remain healthy overall. However, if you instead only focused on one specific area, the other parts of your body become weaker. This is how untreated hearing loss impacts your brain. The portion of your brain responsible for transmitting sound becomes weaker, making memory loss more likely.
Benefits of wearing a hearing aid
Treating your hearing loss is the first step toward a healthier, happier life. Wearing a hearing aid can enrich your life and reopen many doors that may have closed for you over the years. Other benefits of treating your hearing loss with hearing aids include:
- Hearing your grandchild’s first words
- Hearing nature again
- Feeling safer in cities
- Attending dinners in noisy environments
- Enjoying parties and understanding conversation
How to get help
Hearing loss isn’t age-specific; it can affect everyone, from babies to adults and seniors. The best way to know how to get help is to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. He or she will be able to help determine the type and degree of hearing loss you have. From there, the hearing care professional will be able to suggest a type and style of hearing aid that can help you begin to live a happier, more fulfilled life.
If you think you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss, don’t delay another day. Visit a hearing healthcare professional and take the first step toward a world of better hearing.