The Hidden Costs Of Untreated Hearing Loss - Attune
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The Hidden Costs Of Untreated Hearing Loss

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For many patients with a hearing impairment, the news of their hearing loss comes as a surprise. A long list of worries, ranging from the involved costs to the social stigma associated with their hearing loss, sees many deny the problem. If you are amongst those avoiding treatment, you should be aware of the risks. Below, we’ve summarised why treating your hearing loss is the only reasonable choice!

As many as 3.6 million Australians live with some form of hearing loss. A large percentage of them, however, do not seek treatment for a very treatable condition. Avoiding treatment and letting hearing loss go unaddressed, means that the condition gradually gets worse, whilst overall health and quality of life decline. 

Why Does Hearing Loss Often Go Untreated? 

Hearing loss often occurs gradually. So much so that we get used to whatever hearing level we currently have and assume it is normal. Those with hearing loss often report that they can hear, just not always clear. Equally, whilst they may hear people speaking, they do not always understand what they are saying.  

This leads them to assume that other people are not speaking clearly. People can live with hearing loss for years before they come to accept that hearing loss is related to their own ears. However, it is only when we accept that there’s an issue, that we can look for a solution. 

We have to accept that there’s an issue, to look for a solution

Many people never accept that they have hearing loss or never feel ready to wear hearing aids. On average, people wait over ten years after their initial diagnosis to be fit with hearing aids.

How does this affect the lives of people with hearing loss and the lives of their loved ones? What are the hidden health costs behind untreated hearing loss? Let’s take a good look!

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The Hidden Costs Of Untreated Hearing Loss

  • Increased Fatigue

It is quite normal to do some lip-reading or attempt to predict what people will say next in a conversation. However, in cases of untreated hearing loss, a greater deal of concentration and effort is required. 

Our brains have to “fill in the blanks” where the ears have failed to receive and transmit signals. The additional work we have to do on top of the normal cognitive load is both tiring and distracting. 

Anyone who has had a conversation with someone with hearing loss knows it can be hard work – depending on the level of hearing loss. For those who live with a partner with hearing loss, there may be multiple reasons to feel exhausted. 

Untreated hearing loss can affect your entire social network. Partners of people with unaddressed hearing impairments may:

  • Have to field all phone calls.
  • Have to repeat what others have said in conversations.
  • Have to repeat themselves a lot.
  • Have to speak up for the partner with hearing loss.
  • Live with the constant anxiety of never knowing whether the partner with hearing loss has heard a request or whether their needs will be unheard and unmet. 
  • Be living in a home where they are overwhelmed by overly loud sounds such as blaring televisions and radios or high pitched ringing of mobile phones turned up to full blast for the partner with hearing loss.

All of these things may lead to exhaustion on the part of a normal-hearing partner if you yourself have an untreated hearing loss.

  • Increased Risk of Falls

We all know that we are more likely to have a mishap when we are tired or distracted than when we are alert and fully rested. Fatigue caused by straining to hear or living with someone with untreated hearing loss can result in all manner of accidents.

Hearing loss affects our balance. This particular put the elderly at an increased risk of falls.

Untreated hearing loss is said to triple the risk of falls by 140 per cent for every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss.

The likelihood of those with hearing loss falling is increased both because their brains are distracted by listening tasks and because we are less aware of the sounds in our environment simply because we are not hearing all environmental sounds. 

Cognitive Decline

  • Cognitive Decline

A normal part of aging, the cognitive decline most people experience as they get older, can range from mild and almost non-existent, to very serious. Hearing loss, some studies suggest, may be one of the driving factors behind rapidly worsening brain fitness. Some have found a link between hearing loss and dementia. In fact, people with mild hearing loss are nearly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

The reduced ability to retain information, learn new things and focus on tasks, can be explained with the additional cognitive load those who struggle to hear experience. Some argue whether forgetfulness is a tangible health cost or not. But when people forget important tasks such as taking medication or attending a dentist appointment, it’s likely to have adverse health effects down the road.

  • Mishearing What is Being Said

People with untreated hearing loss may mishear important instructions from their GP or chemist. This can lead to unintentional non-compliance with these instructions. Adverse health effects can result. 

Similarly, mishearing or not hearing navigation instructions when driving a car can lead to accidents and injuries. Endless unfortunate scenarios can unfold from failure to follow instructions due to untreated hearing loss.

  • Social Isolation 

Perhaps the most emotionally significant effect of untreated hearing loss is the social isolation driven by unaddressed hearing loss.

When their hearing loss is left untreated, people may be:

  • Nodding and smiling in response to questions because they are unsure what was said.
  • Baffled as to who is on the other end of the phone line or avoiding answering the phone altogether.
  • Unable to watch television with others because the sound is either too loud for companions or too soft for themselves.
  • Missing out on the punchlines of jokes.
  • Misunderstanding what friends or family are saying.
  • Feeling embarrassed or exhausted by social interactions. 

These factors can make it seem as if the efforts that have to be invested in social situations aren’t worth the benefit of socialising. People may feel left out and give up on social gatherings altogether. 

A lack of social interaction can lead to:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Higher blood pressure  
  • Reduction in quality of sleep
  • Reduction in motivation to exercise
  • Increased rate of cognitive decline

Although this is understandable, it is not good for anyone. Human beings are social beings and thrive on companionship. As such, social isolation can lead to a decline in overall health and a reduction in quality of life. 

Learn More About Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss can lead to distraction, fatigue and faux pas. In turn, this can cause accidents, forgetfulness, misunderstandings and social withdrawal. The physical and emotional strain associated with these problems takes a great toll on those affected by hearing loss, be it directly or indirectly, through family and friends. 

However, hearing loss is a treatable problem, that can be addressed with a range of treatment approaches, including amplification. The best place to start is your GP or a trusted, local hearing health care professional. They can provide you with the tools and support needed to manage your hearing loss, including advice on financing options. 

Don’t delay seeking treatment. It is the right thing to do, for your own safety and well-being, but for that of your loved ones too. To prepare for your appointment ad make you feel a little more at ease, we recommend reading the following:

Don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at Attune Hearing if you have concerns about your hearing! Find a local Attune clinic to improve your overall quality of life. Book your appointment online today!

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