Hearing loss is a huge health issue in the U.S. but often people facing hearing challenges choose to ignore the issue rather than confronting it. Although hearing loss takes an obvious toll on our quality of life, mental health, and physical well-being, hearing loss is mostly regarded as invisible and ignorable.
Hearing loss is not helped by the fact that most hearing damage happens in small increments over long periods of time. People who notice some change in their hearing note that it isn’t a very big change and often don’t see the issue as worthy of medical attention. This gradual development allows people to think that their hearing “isn’t so bad” and that they’ve “adjusted.” In truth, most all hearing loss is a permanent loss of hearing and the way our brain “adjusts” to hearing loss pushes us further and further away from healthy hearing patterns.
On average there is a seven-year delay between the first time a person notices a hearing issue and when they seek medical attention for it. Delaying care doesn’t do anyone any favors however. If there is hearing loss present, it can continue to gradually worsen while it is being ignored, becoming a bigger issue that is more difficult to treat.
In fact, the brain patterns we use to interpret sound signals coming from the ear gradually adapt to compensate for our hearing, moving away from healthy hearing patterns into more stressful and chaotic approaches to comprehension. The more hearing loss is allowed to progress unaddressed, the more the brain has to compensate for missing information. When hearing treatment is at last introduced, the user may find it difficult to comprehend sounds that the brain no longer has the tools to process.
Treating hearing loss early is always the best course of action. Early treatment makes hearing loss easier to adjust to and manage while preserving the natural functioning of the brain.
Untreated hearing loss perhaps takes its biggest toll on a person’s mental health. By attacking our ability to communicate and respond, hearing loss can limit socializing and mobility and lead to anxiety, depression and isolation.
With unchecked hearing loss, familiar and enjoyable situations can deteriorate into frustrating and difficult ones. The noise in your favorite restaurant may be too loud to chat with your dining companions or the sports event you never miss sitting in the stands suddenly becomes overwhelming and unintelligible. As their hearing declines gradually, many people withdraw from the social activities they enjoyed the most.
Similarly, the inability to fully grasp the incoming sounds can create severe anxiety for a person with untreated hearing loss, especially when in new places or meeting new people. Stress levels generally rise with worsening hearing and anxiety can exacerbate other quality of life factors.
Untreated hearing loss has also been correlated with higher rates of depression. Depression can be brought on by a feeling that you are neither understanding nor being understood by those closest to you. Anxiety and isolation can also play perpetuating roles in the course of a depression.
Hearing loss is often viewed as being “low-stakes” or inconsequential to a person’s overall physical well-being. Again, this is far from the reality. In truth, hearing loss increases a person’s risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia as well as increasing the likelihood they will experience a serious falling injury.
Not being able to hear well increases stressors in the body and decreases the resources we have to cope with them. For instance, when we don’t hear enough sounds to decipher words and meanings from them, our brain goes into overdrive. The mind compensates for the ears and tries to fill in the gaps to create a cohesive meaning. While doing this, mental energy is pulled away from other tasks such as maintaining balance and coordination. With less attention paid to our bodies’ outward movements, the chance of falling greatly increases.
Comprehensive Ear and Hearing
How do we catch hearing loss when it starts? Annual hearing exams are part of the answer. An annual hearing exam with Comprehensive Ear and Hearing checks for changes to the way you hear and locates any potential hearing loss. The expert care we provide can match you with hearing treatment options tailored to your lifestyle and needs. Ready to get a grip on your hearing health? Contact us today!