Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss

1. Your mental sharpness may suffer

When you have difficulty hearing what’s going on around you, your mental sharpness can suffer. Hearing loss may promote cognitive decline because when there is less auditory input, auditory centers in the brain begin to degenerate, and the brain struggles to compensate. This means that the brain needs to use more resources to process auditory information, so that there is less available to use for other functions, such as learning and memory. That’s why it’s important to identify hearing loss early so it can be treated as soon as possible.

2. Your risk of dementia may increase

Living with even a mild case of hearing loss can double your risk of developing dementia. The more severe the case, the greater the risk of cognitive decline. A moderate case of hearing loss, for example, triples your risk. With a severe case of hearing loss, you’re up to five times more likely to develop dementia. Brain changes (on MRI), which may increase dementia risk, start soon after the onset of hearing damage. Patients with hearing impairment have accelerated rates of brain atrophy, including areas involved in memory. Studies suggest that it may be necessary to treat hearing loss before significant brain shrinkage occurs in order to mitigate dementia risk.

3. Hearing loss may impact your memory

Do you find it hard to remember what you’ve just heard? It can be difficult to comprehend and remember what’s being said when it’s a struggle to hear conversations or information in the first place. This is because the extra cognitive resources required to listen reduce the resources available for memory and comprehension.

4. Conversations are not as fun

As your hearing worsens, it becomes more challenging to follow everyday conversations. You may need to ask people to repeat themselves frequently, or sit closer to people so you can read their lips to understand. You may even nod and pretend to understand what is being said. Does this sound familiar? Jokes aren’t as funny if you miss the punchline.

5. Your social life may suffer

You may find it harder to keep in touch with your circle of friends when you have difficulty hearing.  It may be particularly noticeable in certain settings, such as larger gatherings or dinner parties. As a result, you may find yourself withdrawing from certain social events or declining invitations. In fact, research shows that seniors with untreated hearing loss are 20-24% less likely to participate in social activities.

6. You may feel anxious

As your hearing worsens, you may find it difficult to decipher and locate sounds around you. This may lead you to feel more insecure about your surroundings. Have you been feeling less secure lately? Tinnitus is also linked to anxiety.

7. Communication can be exhausting

When it’s difficult to hear, communication can be exhausting. This is because you must dig deeper into your cognitive reserves to understand. This can be particularly taxing at social events, in restaurants or in crowds where you may need to concentrate even harder to decipher what people say to you.

8. Hearing loss may impact your income

According to a study by The Better Hearing Institute, untreated hearing loss can impact your earning potential. It can account for up to $30,000 in lost income annually, and can impact your performance at work. When you don’t hear clearly, you risk missing key information in meetings or directives from supervisors.