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  • Writer's pictureWidex Emirates Hearing Care

Untreated Hearing Loss Is More Impactful Than You Think


untreated hearing loss
Image Credit: https://www.connecthearing.ca/

Hearing loss not only impacts our ability to hear. It affects our ability to connect and bond with the world around us every day. Living with untreated hearing loss has many effects far more than your ability to hear. Those with hearing loss difficulties experience incomplete and distorted communication that drastically impacts their personal and professional lives. Children and adults with untreated hearing loss are at risk for developing the challenges listed below.

 

  1. Decline in Mental Sharpness

  2. Tinnitus

  3. Increase in The Risk of Dementia

  4. Strained Relationships

  5. Withdrawal from Social Situations, Social Rejection and Loneliness

  6. Reduced Job Performance and Earning Power

  7. Lack of Balance and Safety

  8. Diminished Psychological and Overall Health

 

What is Hearing Loss?

 

Hearing loss is not just an ear issue. It is a quality of life.

Whilst it can affect all ages, it is considered to be one of the most common causes of disability amongst the ageing population. Researches have been conducted to understand the correlation between hearing loss and other serious health issues such as diabetes, heart diseases, depression, cognitive decline and fall rates in older adults.

The sooner you receive help to your hearing impairment, the easier it will be for your brain to use the auditory pathways for processing sound. This is also applied for children with untreated hearing loss. Research shows that babies whose hearing impairment is detected and treated by the time they are six months old are more likely to acquire language and speech skills than children whose hearing impairment goes undetected and untreated. On the long run, this affects self-esteem, academic success and social interaction with their peers.

 

Psychological Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

 

There are many psychological outcomes of untreated hearing loss for both children and adults. These include increased outbursts of low self-confidence, anger, frustration, depression and embarrassment. With adults specifically, they might experience periods of grieving and sadness as their ability to hear starts to diminish. They might feel tired and more fatigued because the struggle to understand and hear may be physically exhausting. Hearing loss causes can negatively affect interpersonal communication, access to education, employment opportunities, intimate relationships, and economic independence.

 

Studies have associated untreated hearing loss effects with:

 

  • Decline in Mental Sharpness

 

When you find difficulty hearing what is going on around you, your mental sharpness might be affected. This is because of a reduction of auditory stimulation to the brain. This impairs the ability to process sound and recognize speech, thus leading to impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks. Like any muscle, if the brain isn’t exercised, it can atrophy.

 

 

Tinnitus, often described as constant ringing in the ears, is a disturbance for many. It is sometimes linked to hearing loss. The persistent sound causes difficulty in understanding speech, disrupts focus, hinders relaxation and even interferes with sleep. Over time, this leads to heightened stress levels, anxiety and at some point, depressive symptoms.

 

 

Studies have shown through time that hearing loss and dementia are correlated. The more severe the hearing loss is, the greater the risk of cognitive decline.

The brain spends more time deciphering incomplete sound information, leaving no space for tasks like thinking or memory. With time, this strain accelerates cognitive decline and increases the risk of dementia. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, people with hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia. Think of it this way: The more you lift weights or work out, the healthier and bigger your muscles become. The same process goes with the brain and extends beyond the areas required to understand sound. If the ear no longer picks up as many sounds, fewer signals will be sent to the brain. As such, the brain atrophies and declines.

 

  • Strained Relationships

 

With untreated hearing loss, the interactions between people become riddled with challenges. It first starts small: frequent requests to repeat a sentence, misunderstood words leading to mild confusion, and the sense of detachment when the person misses out certain conversations. All of this might cause loved ones to feel that the person is not interested or listening. With time, as these miscommunications mount, a silent wedge will be created, causing strain, resentment and frustration. That is why seeking professional help from an audiologist will help in dealing with this situation.

 

 

  • Withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness

 

The joys of social interactions become challenges for those with hearing loss. Over time, these challenges become more daunting and stressful.

People with untreated hearing loss withdraw from social life as they avoid the embarrassment of asking people to repeat themselves. This gradual retreat fosters feelings of loneliness, leading to more mental health and emotional issues.

With time, they might start missing out birthday parties, family outings, after-work dinners and more.

 

  • Reduced job performance and earning power

 

Think about the regular dynamics of a team meeting: multiple voices, varying pitches, and overlapping ideas- all of which demand acute attention to details. For someone grappling with untreated hearing loss, these meetings can become daunting with missed points and requested directions. It’ s not just about that! The subsequent effects are what matter as well: the hesitation of participating in a discussion for fear if redundancy, the potential misinterpretations leading to task mistakes, or the reluctance to lead presentations or projects because of low self-confidence.

All of this can hinder professional growth and affect promotion opportunities, sometimes jeopardizing job security. Hearing loss treatments in this case, including hearing aids, cochlear implants and other options will enhance the job performance and allow the person to be more engaged.

 

  • Lack of balance and safety

 

When our auditory input is compromised, locating the origin of sounds becomes more challenging. Furthermore, the inner ear, playing a major role in hearing, also influences balance. Those with untreated hearing loss find their physical coordination and balance impacted. They might lose their sense of space and they start missing warning cues, such as horns or sirens. This leads to increased risks of falls and in the case of the elderly, such falls can have severe ramifications, including prolonged hospital stays and fractures.

 

  • Diminished psychological and overall health

 

Multiple studies have linked untreated hearing loss with fatigue, tension, stress, depression, irritability, negativism, anxiety and anger. The stress of constantly trying to keep up with conversations creates a fertile ground for all these conditions.

On the surface, hearing seems to all like a passive activity. Yet, for the ones suffering from hearing loss, it is nothing but effortless. The brain will be constantly working, trying to piece together fragments of conversations, filtering out background noises and filling in the gaps of missed auditory inputs. This constant mental juggling act is too exhausting and causes cognitive fatigue.

 

At the end of the day, the person will be filled with strained listening, craving solitude and silence- not because they seek isolation, but because they need a break from all the relentless efforts of deciphering sounds. This chronic fatigue can get into other aspects of life, dimming enthusiasm for hobbies, cutting social engagements, and influencing the mood and overall wellbeing.

 

Life is experienced at its best when all our senses function effectively. Untreated hearing loss impacts more than just the hearing ability… It is more impactful than you think! Understanding the broad effects of it highlights the need for early diagnosis, prompt treatment and public awareness. Contact us at www.widex.com to stay connected to the world around you!

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