Hearing loss is a hidden disability; while not obvious to the outside observer, it often manifests itself in psychological, emotional and physical health problems. And since hearing loss is usually gradual and progressive, it tends to be minimized or ignored by those who have it. Unfortunately, the average time that elapses prior to seeking treatment is seven to ten years.
The following health risks associated with hearing loss are important reasons to take your hearing health seriously in 2016:
Mental Health – Many individuals with untreated hearing loss experience feelings of embarrassment and frustration. A person who can’t hear well might stop going to parties, socializing with friends or participating in hobbies or activities that they used to enjoy. That social isolation can then lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
Heart Conditions – Hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of conditions such as heart disease.
Cognitive Decline – A recent study out of the University of Colorado looked at the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. The researchers found in individuals with hearing loss, the brain’s ability to process sound is significantly compromised. That decline in ability to process sound then results in a reduced ability to understand speech. Even with mild hearing loss, the hearing areas of the brain atrophy, or become weaker. What happens next is the stronger areas of the brain step in to compensate for the weaker areas. When these weaker areas of the brain are otherwise occupied, they are unavailable to do their primary job.
Maintaining Balance – Falls are the leading cause of death among older adults, especially for those over the age of 65. Now, a recent study out of Johns Hopkins has determined that even a mild hearing loss triples the risk of an accidental fall among older adults.