Hearing loss affects a surprisingly large portion of the population — roughly one in five Americans — but people are often reluctant to seek help. It is an invisible problem that often comes on gradually and most people suffer through hearing woes for years before they even begin to consider seeking help. The problem with this approach is that much more than hearing is at stake, and delaying treatment can make hearing loss worse.
Unaddressed hearing loss has a wide range of effects on the individual suffering it, and on his family, co-workers, friends, and other loved ones. From mental decline to social isolation, letting hearing troubles linger and progress over years can have dire consequences. Here are just a handful of ways that unaddressed hearing loss negatively affects a person’s quality of life.
Depression is a mental illness that is debilitating and difficult to overcome without help. Recently, scientists from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders (NIDCD) discovered a correlation between hearing loss and depression in adults of all ages and races.
Hearing impairment was linked to moderate and severe depression at a rate that was twice as high in people with hearing loss compared to people without any hearing impairment. If you suffer from hearing loss and want to avoid the difficulties of depression, click here for a qualified audiologist.
2. Social Isolation
Social isolation is a danger to everyone as they age. Due to limited mobility, resources, and a changing lifestyle after retirement, aging Americans are much less likely to interact with friends and family on a regular basis. If you add untreated hearing loss to the aging mix, you get an even stronger likelihood of isolation due to the frustrations and difficulties that come with trying and failing to effectively communicate with others.
The resulting lack of human contact leads to loneliness, a sense of meaninglessness, boredom, and an overall lower quality of life.
3. Mental Decline
Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that thinking skills declined faster over the course of six years in people with hearing loss than in people who had no trouble at all with their hearing. Interestingly, many of the people involved in the study tested normally for memory and thinking at the start of the study, only to see a steep decline as hearing loss progressed.
While researchers aren’t entirely sure of the reason for the mental decline, increased social isolation, less brain stimulation, and an overworked brain that expends more energy trying to hear instead of performing other functions are thought to contribute.
4. Lower Earning Power
Being able to communicate is an essential part of being a functioning person — especially in the workforce. When hearing is compromised — and left untreated over time — communication invariably suffers. Adults with unaddressed hearing loss are less likely to feel confident and assertive at work.
They can miss out on important details and nuances in interactions with co-workers and managers. They can also stumble through meetings and presentations. They can unfairly be perceived as foolish, simple, or bumbling as they attempt to cover up their hearing difficulties. All these problems lead to an inability to earn as much as someone without a hearing impairment or with a hearing problem that’s being appropriately addressed.
5. Unstable Relationships
One of the most difficult aspects related to hearing loss is its deleterious effects on relationships — especially those relationships that are of a more intimate nature. Frustration, anger, loss of intimacy, feelings of neglect, and more can abound in a marriage, partnership, parent-child relationship, and friendship as the inability to communicate with ease wears everyone down. When someone has difficulties hearing, the scope of their life feels smaller, because there is so much less that someone with a hearing problem is able to take in.
Unfortunately, just as much is happening, being shared, and being spoken — it’s just being missed by the one who can’t hear as well as they once did. Eventually, loved ones quit sharing as much, communication efforts break down, and distance is created between people where there used to be camaraderie and understanding. Getting treatment as early as possible for hearing loss will protect the people and relationships you value most from the instability that could otherwise creep in.
Losing your hearing isn’t fun, and once it starts, it’s a problem that will continue to worsen if it isn’t treated. To increase your chances of a higher quality of life — even with hearing loss — get treatment as soon as you suspect there’s a problem.