Hearing loss can lead to auditory deprivation, dementia, and emotional problems. I have asked my respected colleague, Audiologist Kelly O’Malley, to share some facts about each consequence:
When the hearing nerve and the area of the brain responsible for hearing are deprived of sound, they atrophy. Microscopic hair cells in your inner ear vibrate with sound and send signals to your brain. When those hair cells are damaged, they can’t transmit the sound properly to your brain. This results in hearing loss at certain frequencies. Prolonged untreated hearing loss may cause your brain to forget how to interpret auditory impulses, like an unused muscle becomes weak over time. Damage to the hair cells in the inner ear is permanent. Even if these areas are stimulated again through amplification, the brain may no longer be able to interpret the incoming signals clearly. In other words, “use it or lose it” applies to your hearing as well.
A study by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that seniors with hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia over time than those with normal hearing. They proposed that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculated that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders. Compared with normal hearing study participants, those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold, respectively, the risk of developing dementia over time. The greater the hearing loss, the higher the likelihood of developing dementia.
Untreated hearing loss can lead to anger, frustration, insecurity, instability, nervousness, anxiety, and depression. It can also lead to damage to important relationships, impaired job performance, confusion, and isolation.
Fortunately, there is help for hearing loss. In some cases there are medical or surgical solutions; however the most common form of treatment is amplification, i.e., hearing aids. Advanced digital technology is now affordable and, like a stereo equalizer, it can manage almost any listening situation. A baseline-hearing test takes 15 to 20 minutes. Early hearing loss can be detected and treated before it is too late. Call and make an appointment to have a hearing test today!
We can’t wait to be a part of your journey to better hearing!
Kelly O’Malley, Au.D.
Doctor of Audiology
3100 W. Higgins Rd., Ste. 145
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169