Hearing loss is incredibly common, impacting as many as one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 75 and as many as 50 percent of Americans older than 75. It can lead to a host of complications that can dramatically affect the sufferer’s quality of life. In fact, the effects of hearing loss range from difficulty communicating and reduced socialization to physical and even cognitive consequences. If you’ve noticed a change in your ability to hear, visit an audiologist as soon as possible to have your hearing checked and explore treatment options.
Effects of Hearing Loss
Untreated hearing loss is more than just an annoyance; hearing loss may contribute to cognitive issues including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as an overall decline in cognitive capabilities. One Johns Hopkins study found that adults suffering from hearing loss had cognitive abilities that declined 30 to 40 percent faster than those without hearing loss. The study also found that adults with hearing loss tend to undergo cognitive decline several years earlier than adults without hearing loss. This may be due to several factors including reduced socialization and a frustrating loss of communication skills.
Our world is governed by all kinds of warning sounds, from fire alarms to the yowling of a dissatisfied cat. When we experience hearing loss, we might miss out on key sounds – a spoken instruction or honking car, for example – that could otherwise keep us safe. Hearing loss can also lead to disorientation, making it difficult to react appropriately during emergencies. Furthermore, hearing loss can lead to several other physical symptoms including headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and increased blood pressure.
If you’ve ever tried to have a meaningful conversation in a noisy bar or restaurant, you know it can be frustrating. Add hearing loss onto that, and you have a recipe for a serious decline in socialization. For adults with hearing loss, normal social settings like restaurants and movie theaters can be difficult to navigate. Everyday sounds like ambient music, movie soundtracks, and clanging silverware can become overwhelming for people with hearing loss, making it difficult to pay attention to conversation and communicate effectively. That, in turn, makes socializing seem like a chore.
Vocabulary and Communication
It’s not surprising that people with hearing loss struggle with communication. Just think about a time when you’ve struggled to understand what someone says to you. Recall how frustrating it may have been to ask them to repeat themselves again and again. Adults with hearing impairment issues may find that various sounds and frequencies are gradually lost. Once these sounds become difficult to hear, the corresponding letters and words are effectively removed from the brain. Although they can still read these words on a page, their brains adjust to not hearing the letters and sounds, which can affect the way sounds are interpreted over time. This eventually interrupts communication pathways between the ears and the brain, which is one reason that adults with untreated hearing loss seem to suffer from cognitive decline.
The effects of hearing loss can range from frustrating to downright debilitating. Fortunately, audiologists offer effective and personalized treatments to help people with hearing loss. Hearing technology has come a long way in the past several decades, so don’t be afraid to visit an audiologist and learn more about the options available to you. It might change your whole life, not just your ability to hear.
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