Hearing damage is hazardously sneaky. It creeps up on an individual through the years so gradually you hardly notice, making it easy to deny or ignore. And then, when you eventually acknowledge the signs and symptoms, you shrug it off as inconvenient and annoying as its real effects are hidden.
For up to 48 million Americans that claim some measure of hearing loss, the negative effects are significantly greater than only aggravation and frustration.1 listed below are 8 reasons why untreated hearing loss is a great deal more dangerous than you might think:
1. Connection to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A report from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging shows that people with hearing loss are considerably more susceptible to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who maintain their ability to hear.2
While the reason for the connection is ultimately undetermined, scientists suspect that hearing loss and dementia could possibly share a common pathology, or that several years of stressing the brain to hear could cause damage. A different hypothesis is that hearing loss oftentimes causes social solitude — a prominent risk factor for dementia.
Regardless of the cause, repairing hearing may be the best prevention, which includes the use of hearing aids.
2. Depression and social isolation
Scientists from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, have uncovered a strong connection between hearing loss and depression among U.S. adults of all ages and races.3
3. Not hearing alerts to danger
Car horns, ambulance and law enforcement sirens, and fire alarms all are developed to notify you to potential hazards. If you miss these types of signals, you place yourself at an increased risk of injury.
4. Memory impairment and mental decline
Studies indicate that individuals with hearing loss experience a 40% greater rate of decrease in cognitive ability in contrast to those with healthy hearing.4 The leading author of the report, Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, stated 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 raising awareness as to the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline is Dr. Lin’s foremost priority.
5. Lower household income
In a survey of more than 40,000 households conducted by the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss was shown to negatively affect household income by as much as $12,000 annually, dependent on the level of hearing loss.5 individuals who wore hearing aids, however, cut this impact by 50%.
The ability to communicate at work is essential to job performance and advancement. The fact is, communication skills are without fail ranked as the top job-related skill-set targeted by managers and the leading factor for promotion.
6. Auditory deprivation – use it or lose it
When it comes to the human body, “use it or lose it” is a mantra to live by. For instance, if we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy or shrink with time, and we end up losing strength. It’s only through physical exercise and repetitive use that we can recover our physical strength.
The same phenomenon applies to hearing: as our hearing degrades, we get stuck in a downward spiral that only gets worse. This is often referred to as auditory deprivation, and a multiplying body of research is validating the “hearing atrophy” that can occur with hearing loss.
7. Underlying medical conditions
Even though the most common cause of hearing loss is associated with age and consistent exposure to loud noise, hearing loss is sometimes the symptom of a more significant, underlying medical condition. Possible conditions include:
- Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- Otosclerosis – the hardening of the middle ear bones
- Ménière’s disease – a condition 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
Owing to the seriousness of some of the ailments, it is crucial that any hearing loss is promptly evaluated.
8. Greater risk of falls
Research has uncovered a variety of connections between hearing loss and dangerous diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. An additional study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has uncovered still another discouraging connection: the link between hearing loss and the risk of falls.6
The study reveals that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were just about three times more likely to have a history of falling. And for every extra 10-decibels of hearing loss, the chances of falling increased by 1.4 times.
Don’t wait to get your hearing tested
The positive side to all of this pessimistic research is the suggestion that preserving or repairing your hearing can help to lower or eliminate these risks completely. For the people that have normal hearing, it is more vital than ever to look after it. And for those struggling with hearing loss, it’s vital to seek the help of a hearing specialist right away.