The Consequences of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects nearly 36 million Americans, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Hearing loss may result from genetic or environmental factors. Sometimes, however, it is simply a result of aging. Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is common.

The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) says several things can cause hearing loss besides aging, heredity or the environment. They include inner ear damage, infections, a ruptured eardrum or earwax buildup. No matter what its cause, hearing loss can have a negative impact on quality of life if left untreated.

Moreover, it can have far-reaching consequences that go beyond hearing alone. Untreated hearing loss can have negative social, emotional, cognitive and health effects. Since most hearing loss occurs gradually, many people are unaware of the damaging effects of hearing changes.

Only one in five people currently seek treatment for hearing impairment. However, hearing problems are likely to reach new levels as America ages and “baby boomers” live longer. In order to recognize the value of treatment, it is important to understand the negative consequences of hearing loss.

The Effects of Hearing Loss

Most hearing impaired people can identify the common effects of hearing loss. They often miss out on music, movie dialog, and the laughter of children or the voices of their loved ones. However, hearing loss causes other, more serious side effects they may not notice at first.

Dementia is one surprising consequence of hearing loss. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, people with untreated hearing loss have a higher risk of developing cognitive problems. The strain of trying to decode sounds can overwhelm a hearing impaired brain and lead to dementia.

Depression is another common hearing loss effect. A National Council on Aging (NCOA) study discovered higher rates of depression and anxiety in people with untreated hearing loss. The erratic communication patterns caused by hearing impairment can greatly affect someone’s emotional or mental state.

Many hearing impaired people experience social isolation. While this is based on anecdotal evidence rather than scientific analysis, the effect is profound. The combination of untreated hearing loss and social isolation often leads to the negative consequences of dementia, depression and lower income.

In a study of 40,000 American households, the Better Hearing Institute found a link between hearing impairment and annual income. People with untreated hearing loss generally earn less income than those who seek appropriate treatment. The difference can reach $30,000 in some cases. Researchers say hearing aids can offset this negative impact by more than 65 percent.

Early Hearing Loss Treatment

Fortunately, more people recognize the importance of early treatment today than ever before. Even mild hearing loss can benefit from appropriate treatment. Early intervention “trains” the ears when they can still hear sounds, creating a more effective treatment.

Modern hearing aids like Miracle Ear devices are so advanced they make it possible to hear conversation even in a noisy, crowded room. A hearing checkup is painless, and many hearing aid stores offer free screenings. Best of all, better hearing may prevent some of the negative effects of hearing loss such as dementia, depression, low income and loneliness.

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