The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss on Your Health and Wellbeing - Attune
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The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss on Your Health and Wellbeing

Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with a hearing loss, your immediate concerns may focus on the obvious difficulties you or your family member have understanding spoken words and participating in everyday conversations. 

Some less often discussed aspects of untreated hearing loss may surprise you. 

Hearing loss refers to reduced ability to hear, which various factors may cause: It can either be genetic or acquired later in life through damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. Hearing loss can range from mild hearing loss to profound and may have varying impacts on your health. 

Can hearing loss cause other health problems?

From social withdrawal to a drop in self-esteem and an increased risk of depression, serious falls, dementia and cardiovascular disease – The links between hearing loss and other health threats are manifold. 

Not only does hearing loss pose a risk to your mental well-being, as we’ve previously discussed, but it is a risk to your overall health. 

With one in six Australians suffering from a form of hearing loss, it’s about time we discuss what it means to suffer from a hearing impairment. 

After all, a reduction in your ability to hear can have many underlying causes and consequences.  

The Hidden Health Risks of Hearing Loss 

  • Depression and Anxiety 

Hearing loss is much more than just an inconvenience. With the ability to communicate, you may also lose life as you knew it. 

Social interactions can suddenly become strenuous, requiring a huge amount of effort in an attempt to understand what’s being said. 

Depending on the severity of your hearing loss, it may still not be enough to make up for the deficit. 

At some point, perhaps out of pride and the unwillingness to admit something is wrong, you may find yourself avoiding social gatherings altogether.

Many people with hearing loss simply do not want to burden their loved ones, not realising that unresolved communication challenges will result in social isolation – a driving force behind stress and depression. 

As research has shown over the years, isolation from others can warp the mind in many ways.

cognitive impairment

  • Dementia and cognitive impairment 

We know that someone with a mild hearing impairment is nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as someone with “normal” hearing.  

More importantly, a recently published study concluded that untreated hearing loss is the one leading factor for dementia within our control.

What we do not (yet) know for certain why that’s the case. 

While many theories link hearing loss with decreased brain functions, very few agree on the causes. 

Some researchers seem to think that the energy the brain of a hearing-impaired person spends straining to hear depletes the energy their brain needs in other areas, such as cognition and memory. 

Others suggest that the previously discussed social isolation resulting from a hearing loss and a lack of sensory inputs ultimately increases the risk of dementia.

  • Falls

Hearing loss can also increase your risk of suffering from the consequences of a serious fall. 

Studies found that the higher the degree of hearing loss, the greater the risk: Even a mild hearing loss can triple your chances of falling. 

The reason for this is simple: Sounds help you balance and orientate yourself in the world. 

Consequently, any amount of hearing loss will affect your spatial awareness and make it much more likely for you to bump into a coffee table or miss a step. 

And then again, if your brain is spending all these resources to make up for your diminished ability to hear, it has fewer resources to spend on things such as gait or balance. 

Now, if you are in your twenties or thirties, you might not worry too much about falling. 

But the older you get, the more dangerous falls can be: The WHO estimates that falls are the second leading cause of injury deaths worldwide, with adults over 60 years of age suffering from the greatest number of fatal falls.

  • Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes  

If you have noticed a decline in your hearing, it’s not only worth booking a hearing test but also seeing your GP for a general health check. 

Here’s why: Any disease that affects your blood flow can impact your hearing. In other words, if you have diabetes or heart disease, your hearing loss may well be a symptom of the illness. 

Take diabetes, for example. Diabetes is one of Australia’s most common health concerns, and its impacts on your hearing health cannot be underestimated. 

One of the many concerns with the disease is the risk of nerve damage caused by high blood sugar levels, and more specifically, the permanent damage to the blood vessels and nerves of the inner ear structures. 

Cardiovascular Disease

Don’t Delay Seeking Support

With all of the risks and conditions we’ve discussed above, it is important to remember that hearing loss is only one factor and having a hearing impairment does not mean you will develop any of them. 

But, if you, a friend or a family member are not hearing the way they used to, do not hesitate to see your audiologist or make an appointment with your GP. 

Early diagnosis and intervention can prevent serious consequences for your health and wellbeing. 

Not sure what to look out for? Click here to learn more about the seven major signs of hearing loss. 

To book a hearing test with a trusted audiologist near you, give us a call at 1300 736 702 or visit Attune Hearing

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