Hearing Loss Left Untreated Can Have Damaging Effect on Cognitive Function
Hearing Loss and Cognitive Function
Hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. Different from the damage that occurs from concerts or noisy workplaces, age-related hearing loss can manifest itself a little bit differently, such as problems when there is increased background noise.
As of today, we have no way to reverse this process, but with the advent of technologies like hearing aids, there's no need to simply resign yourself to years of unhappiness thanks to hearing loss. In fact, in my years of experience, I've observed that doing so can cause much more trouble than just minor annoyances. Hearing loss left untreated can actually damage your brain!
According to a recent article in the New York Times, research by Johns Hopkins University, which surveyed over 150,000 adults over the age of fifty, untreated hearing loss increases the risk of developing dementia by an extraordinary fifty percent. A combination of social isolation, your brain working overtime to process a message it isn't receiving clearly, and increased difficulty in remembering that message due to lack of clarity all lead into the characteristic symptoms of the disease.
Your brain is overloaded with trying to process information, but isn't getting the same positive engagement thanks to social isolation (little point in heading out to the Wick Theater in Boca Raton if you can't hear the actors!), and so it burns out.
That social isolation, by the way, often makes older people more depressed as well. The same study found that untreated hearing loss increases risk of depression by forty percent, and the reason for that is simple: not only are you unable to fully participate in activities you used to love, conversation with others also becomes a struggle, and you may find that you aren't truly engaging with people the way you would like to.
Accidents, especially falls, are another problem faced by those with untreated hearing loss. You may startle more easily, because you cannot hear when someone is approaching, and this may lead to a fall. The risk is compounded by the fact that your sense of balance is governed by your ears. Damage to that system can result in a nasty tumble, and especially as you get older, those falls can lead to more serious injuries and even emergency room trips. As one of the authors of the study puts it,
“hearing loss itself is not very expensive, the effect of hearing loss on everything else is expensive.”
If any of this resonates with you, feel free to give my office a call or click here to set up a consultation. I'm here to help you not only avoid turning minor annoyances into serious problems, but also to improve your quality of life and time spent doing the things you love, with the people you love.