Monday, January 6, 2014

Hearing Loss Hurts!

Hearing Loss Hurts:  Side Effects of Hearing Loss May Shock You!

Hearing loss is often associated with aging, which all of us are trying to avoid.  But leaving your hearing loss at the bottom of the “to do” list could be hurting you more than you think.
By the time most individuals with hearing loss are ready to ask for help, they have already suffered social, psychological, cognitive, and other health effects related to their hearing loss.   Early hearing loss identification and treatment are essential in preventing such an undesired outcome.

Two-thirds of adults aged 70 and older have hearing loss.  But did you know 65 percent of people with hearing loss are below the age of 65?  Shockingly, nearly half of all people with hearing loss are below the age of 55.  A recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association stats that 1 in 5 teens/adolescents have hearing loss.  With increased noise exposure in the younger generations, we are seeing these numbers increase at an alarming rate.

Untreated hearing loss has consequences:

Relationships:  Untreated hearing loss can be harmful to relationships.  The inability to communicate effectively with others leads to isolation and alienation.  People with hearing loss start moving into their own world, rather than a shared one.

Fatigue and Depression:  The sheer effort it requires to communicate with an untreated hearing loss causes fatigue, irritability, anger, tension, stress and depression.   This increased mental exertion needed to communicate with others can lead individuals to avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness.

Dementia:  Some studies have suggested an association between hearing loss and decline in cognitive function and dementia.
“The brain has a limited amount of capacity to work; if hearing loss causes the brain to spend additional resources to understand speech, then it has fewer resources to do such things as store information in memory, analyze what is being said, or think about what to say in a conversation.” Edwards, B. (2009). Cognitive and Psycho-social Consequences of Hearing Loss. ENT News. 1-3.

The aging brain can lead to problems such as poor memory and the inability to learn new tasks.  Research shows that the ability to think and multitask is diminished when the brain is working overtime to communicate.  We need to acknowledge that memory loss could in fact be a symptom of hearing loss.

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