Hearing loss results from a problem with sound reaching the brain and can vary from a minimal to complete loss2. There are several degrees and types of hearing loss and this is why it is important to have a hearing test done. This will ensure the correct treatment is received. Unidentified and untreated hearing loss has multiple effects, including the items listed below.
Decline in cognitive/mental sharpness: Hearing loss prohibits sound from reaching the brain. This causes brain cells to shrink and can cause cognitive sharpness to decline1. The correlation between hearing loss and mental decline is due to added strain on the brain from trying to process conversation and comprehending sounds. As a result, certain areas of the brain are no longer optimally stimulated which may cause cognitive decline.
Less social interactions and more depression: Individuals living with hearing loss often experience difficulty keeping up with conversations. This is due to varying degrees of inability to understand words or hear sounds, which may lead to them feeling excluded from social interactions2. In addition, the extra effort applied by the brain to follow conversation often tires out the person with hearing loss. This is because the brain has to work harder to keep up with the incoming sounds. As a result, an unwillingness to attend social gatherings or participate in conversations may lead to social isolation. Feelings of social exclusion and isolation have a negative impact on wellbeing and typically increase depression, which is also associated with hearing loss.
Increased anxiety: Sound is used as a natural alert to humans when one is in danger3. We often rely on sound as one of our senses to perform simple tasks, such as crossing the road, on a daily basis. Individuals who experience hearing loss may not react to the sounds as they should and as a result this often increases their feelings of anxiety in unfamiliar places. Furthermore, the anxiety can be worsened when hearing loss prevents the person from performing everyday activities.
Increased risk of dementia: A recent study1 concluded that there is a relationship between the degree of hearing loss and the probability of being diagnosed with dementia. The study found that mild hearing loss doubled the probability of dementia. Moderate hearing loss tripled the probability, and people with a severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia.
The influence of hearing loss on your earnings: According to published research4, adults who suffer from hearing loss are more likely to earn a lower salary or to be unemployed, compared to adults who do not have hearing loss. The hearing loss prohibits their ability to perform optimally at certain types of work. Being unemployed or receiving an inefficient income means that individuals may not have the necessary means to treat or maintain their hearing health. This in turn can further complicate their work performance.
Although the effects of hearing loss are invisible to the eye, the occurrence thereof can severely impact the lives and livelihood of its sufferers. This highlights the importance of not only receiving regular hearing tests but also receiving effective treatments from a hearing healthcare professional. Combining these two factors can have a dramatically positive impact on your general and mental health, social interactions and even your economic productivity.