By seeing, you learned to recognize your father’s smile. By tasting, you learned you preferred peaches to spinach. And by hearing, you were lulled to sleep by your mother’s singing.
The reduction or loss of one of your senses has a pronounced effect on your ability to participate in life, and the lives of those you care about. Losing your hearing can be particularly disturbing, because it is often associated with aging and loss of vitality.
The truth is hearing loss affects people of all ages and can be caused by a number of conditions besides growing old. The result is a life of increased isolation and loss of experiences and relationships that takes a profound toll emotionally, physically, and professionally.
Hearing loss takes an emotional toll.
“I find myself losing my temper with my grandchildren because they mumble all the time.”
“Everyone cracked up when the boss asked me about last month’s numbers, and I thought she said something about the sand in summer. I don’t speak up in meetings anymore.”
“I stopped going to my weekly mah-jongg game because I’m tired of asking everyone to repeat themselves—and I can tell they’re sick of it, too.”
Do any of these sound familiar? Even if you haven’t experienced these exact scenarios, the emotions they evoke probably still resonate. The National Council on Aging studied the consequences of untreated hearing loss and found sufferers experience the following common feelings:
- Loss of self-confidence
Loss of hearing interferes with your ability to enjoy recreation, vacation, hobbies, and other pastimes and takes you out of the social scene. The resulting loneliness and isolation robs you of precious years.
Hearing loss can have a physical impact.
Hearing loss is often a symptom or outcome of other medical conditions (comorbidities), which can be very serious or even life-threatening. These are yet another reason not to ignore the symptoms of hearing loss. More than your hearing may be at stake.
Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in the United States. Poor cardiovascular health causes inadequate blood flow throughout your body, and one of the first signs of a problem is blood vessel trauma to your inner ear, resulting in damage to fragile hearing nerves. The outcome is hearing loss, particularly at the lower frequencies.The results of at least one major study showed a “significant association” between low-frequency hearing loss and dangerous outcomes of cardiovascular disease, including strokes, coronary artery disease, and heart attacks.
Despite the results of multiple studies linking hearing loss to the onset of dementia many people remain unaware that leaving hearing loss untreated poses a threat to cognitive health. The more profound the loss of hearing the greater the likelihood of cognitive decline. Hearing loss has also been associated with more rapid brain shrinkage, affecting areas of the brain responsible for processing speech, sound, memory, and sensory integration.
Theories as to why hearing loss a likely factor in the development of dementia in some patients point to straining to hear and understand despite hearing loss exhausting your mind and inhibiting its ability to function at peak performance. Also, If you cannot hear well you probably try to avoid social interactions requiring you to hold up conversation despite noise and crowds. Isolation is an established contributor to mental decline
People with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer hearing loss than those without. One study tested more than 5,000 individuals and found more than 30 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes also experienced hearing loss. Using tests that measured ability to hear at the low, mid, and high-frequencies in both ears, researchers have found a link between diabetes and hearing loss at all frequencies, with a somewhat stronger association in the high-frequency range. Damage to nerves and blood vessels in the inner ear are more common in patients with Type 2 diabetes, which represents approximately 95 percent of cases in the U.S.
Other conditions that have been linked to hearing loss include clinical depression and an increased risk of falls. The point is that ignoring your hearing loss could result in missing out on an early warning sign of a more serious health threat.
Hearing loss can damage your career.
Hearing loss affects not only your personal life, but can cause major disruptions in your professional life, as well. While mild hearing loss may not interfere with your job, worsening hearing quickly takes its toll. Maybe you’ve resisted getting getting hearing aids before now because you’re concerned they’ll make you appear “over the hill” to employers. Ironically, not treating hearing loss is far more likely to cost you with regards to employment, promotions, salary increases, and job security.
One study examined the link between hearing loss and unemployment. The conclusion was that working age adults who experienced hearing loss were more likely to be unemployed than their hearing counterparts. On average, those with hearing loss also earned significantly less than co-workers with normal hearing.
Another study on the impact of untreated hearing loss on household income similarly concluded that of 40,000 families surveyed, hearing loss subtracted up to $12,000 of yearly income on average from affected households. Beyond the toll taken on wage earners with hearing loss and their families, estimates indicate that the US economy as a whole lost in excess of $18 billion of tax revenue due to an estimated 24 million potential earners hampered by untreated hearing loss.
Now, are you ready to figure out if you or someone you care about has a hearing problem?