Hearing loss affects more than just your hearing

on Aug 02, 2019

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The impacts of untreated hearing loss run deeper than you might expect, going far beyond just your ears. Here, we explore some of the challenges you might face if you ignore your hearing loss. With the correct treatment, many of these issues can be alleviated, helping you regain the quality of life you’ve been missing. Do any, or all, of these four areas resonate with you? 

Cognitive function

The old saying “use it or lose it” is true when it comes to hearing loss. Your ears and your brain are inextricably linked. When your ears can’t pass on information to your brain, the areas in the brain don’t receive adequate stimulation and they become weakened. This is called auditory deprivation. The further atrophied these areas become, the harder it is to regain the use of them when you do get hearing aids. It’s the same as muscles in your body. Most of us have had at one point in our lives, a period of time when working out just wasn’t possible – whether it’s through injury, health or just being too busy at work. When you return to your activity of choice, the longer you’ve been out of action, the harder it is to bounce back to your old levels of performance.

It might not surprise you then that untreated hearing loss has been linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s and overall cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins hearing experts found that older people with hearing loss are more likely to experience problems with thinking and memory than their peers without. The study showed that cognitive abilities declined 30% to 40% percent faster in those with untreated hearing loss.

Earning power

If you’ve read up to this point, it probably won’t shock you that hearing loss can affect your career prospects and earning power. An Australian report by Access Economics showed that people with hearing loss are 25% less likely to be earning higher incomes than people without hearing loss.

The cognitive decline we discussed above can cloud your thinking and memory, while there are also the more obvious issues too. Things like, hearing vital information in meetings, communicating with colleagues in busy and noisy environments, or phone conversations can all cause difficulties for someone struggling with a hearing loss. People with hearing loss can also suffer from ear fatigue, which is when the brain and ears become ‘overtired’ from working extra hard to process information. This can lead to lower productivity and time spent off work, as the individual tries to recover from what can be an overwhelming condition. 

More than half of Australians that suffer hearing loss are working age, so it’s certainly not the domain of the elderly. However, many of us are now working beyond the age of retirement, especially in big cities where the cost of living is high. This means it’s even more important for those aged 65+ to get regular hearing checks to catch any declines early and maintain positive working relationships.

Relationships between family and friends

People you are close to will often notice, and raise the question of, your potential hearing loss before you do. We often say that the first time a family member tells you to turn the TV or radio down, it’s a great time to come in for a hearing check!

By this same token, these are the relationships can that be under the most strain when hearing loss goes untreated. Hearing loss often leads to someone withdrawing from socialising and other activities or hobbies they’d usually enjoy. This is a risk factor for social isolation, depression and other mental health issues. 

It can be frustrating for family and friends when they have to ‘be the ears’ of a loved one with untreated hearing loss, or repeat themselves frequently. In families or friendships who are separated geographically, maintaining communications can be even harder if the individual with hearing loss is shying away from the phone, Skype or other ways of communicating. 

Safety

Untreated hearing loss can pose a safety risk to those affected. Smoke alarms in our homes or workplaces are only useful to those who can hear them! Driving, or being a pedestrian, is a hazard if you might not hear warning sounds like car horns.

Emergency or alert signals, including smoke alarms, oven timers, ambulance and police sirens are usually high-frequency sounds. Many people with hearing loss – especially that caused by age or excessive noise exposure – have damage that prevents them from hearing these types of frequencies in particular.

Being able to respond at the right time in an emergency can save your own life, and others too. The precious seconds or minutes until another sense picks up the danger could be the ones that make all the difference.

If this article has you concerned for your own hearing, or that of a loved one, come in and see us. Our hearing health professionals can uncover issues through tests which are quick and non-invasive. If you need treatment, we can then discuss a solution that’s completely tailored to you. Book your free hearing check here

Author: ihear Australia