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When people notice a change in their hearing, they often ask themselves: “Is it serious enough to get it looked at?” At House of Hearing we are here to tell you a resounding “YES!”
Any significant change in your hearing is worth seeking out help from your hearing specialist. That’s because hearing health isn’t something you want to procrastinate on. Hearing issues may be caused by permanent damage to your hearing, and without treatment permanent hearing loss can deplete your quality of life and make you vulnerable to a bevy of other health issues. Added to that, the earlier hearing loss is detected and treated the easier it is to manage. Early treatment may also curb further hearing and cognitive damage that unchecked hearing loss can initiate.
Hearing loss is often permanent, caused by irreparable damage to tiny cells in your inner ear. These cells can be destroyed by infections, injuries and even some medications and preexisting health conditions, but most of the time damage is caused by exposure to excessively loud sounds. Permanent hearing loss can occur suddenly or gradually, but either way, the loss of hearing ability takes a dramatic toll on the way you live.
Mental Health and Quality of Life
One of the most immediate effects of hearing loss is a newfound difficulty in communicating. Often, so much of our place in the world is built on being able to follow conversations and sound cues. Our hearing keeps us abreast of important projects at work or school, makes us invested in our family and community and protects us from nearby danger. Without our hearing, our ability to understand and feel understood begins to erode.
This erosion can have serious repercussions. People with untreated hearing loss are especially vulnerable to depression, anxiety and isolation. Often these conditions co-exist and feed into each other, severely impacting a person’s quality of life.
Untreated hearing loss can drastically alter social behavior. Once-favored activities like going out to dinner or seeing a concert can become challenging or disorienting. Hearing loss, when unaddressed, can make traveling seem daunting, especially to unfamiliar locations. All of this can add up to isolation, where mobility and social connection is severely curtailed.
Not treating hearing loss also can cause a buildup of chronic anxiety. Falling behind on the job or in class, or even just being unable to keep pace with your friends can create an air of frustration and tension. Untreated hearing loss comes with a reduced earning power, which can add stress to life. Combined with some of the same discomforts that provoke isolation, untreated hearing loss breeds anxiety.
A lack of connection in communication often lies at the root of depression. Hearing loss that isn’t treated can alienate you from the people, places and activities you enjoy the most, sapping joy and meaning from your life. Rates of depression among people with unaddressed hearing issues is significantly higher than in the general population.
Alongside declining quality of life, ignoring your hearing loss means many other factors in your health can suffer as well. Unaddressed hearing loss is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, falling accidents and especially to a greater risk of cognitive issues like dementia.
When hearing loss isn’t treated it fundamentally changes the way your mind works. Much of your attention and focus is redirected to comprehending muffled sound and speech and piecing together fragments of sound. By default, hearing loss commandeers your mental resources, taking energy away from other cognitive tasks. This can put you in physical harm- when your brain is distracted from the important tasks of balancing and coordinating your body movements, falling accidents and injuries are much more likely. Similarly, cognitive disruption caused by hearing loss is probably the driving force behind untreated hearing loss and increased risk of dementia.
While you can’t reverse hearing loss, you can treat it effectively. Getting hearing changes examined and responding to hearing loss quickly can lower your health risks and mitigate damage hearing loss can bring to your quality of life. Using treatment like hearing aids to improve your hearing health can help you maintain your lifestyle and cognitive functioning, keeping you close to the things you love the most.