The Hidden Effects of Hearing Loss

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Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions, affecting millions of people across the country and yet it often goes untreated.  This concerning trend of untreated hearing loss is one that hearing specialists, audiologists and other hearing health care providers are working diligently to reverse because it’s not simply communication that is impacted.

As researchers and experts have dived deeper into hearing loss and its long-reaching effects they uncovered connections to dementia and cognitive decline, depression and more concerning conditions. That’s not all though. There are also some surprising side effects that many of us may not even consider.  Here are some of the other ways that hearing loss can impact health, safety, and quality of life:

Anxiety

According to the results of a study by the National Council on Aging, “The Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss in Older Persons,” anxiety and similar mental and emotional conditions can be a real concern for those with untreated hearing loss. Whether it’s worry over missing crucial pieces of the conversation and other’s perceptions or frustration and irritability over communication barriers, the link was clear. That’s not all; the study also found that the use of hearing aids and similar hearing devices as a treatment for hearing loss was linked to a better quality of life and improved social interaction reducing the risk of anxiety.

Increased Risk of Falls

That’s right, untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of falls, a serious concern as we age. Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., at Johns Hopkins, and his colleague Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute on Aging evaluated data from the 2001 to 2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and uncovered startling statistics. The pair found that “people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold.” While the underlying reason for this increased risk is unclear, the findings underscore the importance of getting hearing evaluations and treatment for hearing loss early.

Lower Income

While it may seem like a stretch to say that untreated hearing loss has a direct impact on your paycheck, the research is showing that it’s true. Studies indicate that hearing loss is linked to both unemployment and underemployment. According to “The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income” report from the Better Hearing Institute, those with untreated hearing loss may, “make mistakes on the job, experience higher rates of unemployment and in general may experience an overall reduction in quality of life (i.e. anxiety, depression, social isolation, social paranoia, medical health, emotional stability, cognitive functioning, etc) which may negatively impact job performance.” This decreased job performance then results in lower compensation in the present and for years to come, reducing total lifetime earnings.

The impact of untreated hearing loss goes deeper than a few missed words in a conversation. Research continues to show that even low levels of hearing loss, when left untreated, can significantly affect wellbeing and health. If you are concerned about hearing loss, schedule a hearing evaluation to begin taking control of your hearing health.

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