Although there are currently 6.7 million people in the UK who could benefit from a hearing aid, only around 2 million actually use one. Whether it be due to the stigma that society still attaches to deafness, or due to viewing the condition as a harmless result of the aging process, many people tend to dismiss their hearing loss and postpone seeking treatment until the issue becomes unignorable.
According to recent research, however, this may hide some serious risks: untreated hearing loss has been reported to have significant negative effects on impacted individuals’ physical and mental wellbeing, as well as their cognitive functions.
Humans are social creatures and engaging in social activities is a big part of remaining intellectually and emotionally stimulated. Continuously having a hard time understanding what others are saying, however, can lead to frustration and subsequently- avoiding social situations altogether. In turn, this causes the affected individual to feel lonely and isolated, which can even develop into conditions like depression, anxiety, and paranoia.
Tense Personal Relationships
Individuals who suffer from untreated hearing loss often need to ask their conversation partners to repeat themselves or speak loudly. This can lead to exasperation and discouragement in both parties.
Over time, impacted individuals may find that conversations with friends, family and colleagues are getting shorter and happen less often, or fail to provide substantial depth into the matters which are being discussed. In this way, untreated hearing loss can cause issues both at work and at home.
Lower Energy Levels
Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs in one’s ears that pick up sounds and send electrical signals to the brain through the auditory nerve become damaged. When this happens, the brain must work harder in order to process and interpret noises.
This leads to overstimulation of the nervous system and the brain becoming exhausted, resulting in listener-fatigue: a condition defined as ‘feelings of tiredness, discomfort and loss of sensitivity after prolonged exposure to an auditory stimulus’. Listener-fatigue can occur in people with normal hearing, however, those on the deafness spectrum are more likely to be affected by it due to the extra energy the brain requires to interpret sounds.
Untreated hearing loss can cause hypersensitivity in the auditory cortex due to lack of auditory stimulation, leading to MES (Music Ear Syndrome): a condition which occurs either in silence or with background noise present and involves affected individuals hearing phantom music, singing, or voices. This can have a negative effect on people’s ability to concentrate, as well as on their sleeping pattern.
Research has shown that the risk of dementia doubles for people with untreated mild hearing loss; for those who suffer from a moderate hearing loss, the risk of dementia triples, and if you have severe untreated hearing loss, you are five times more likely to develop the condition.
According to estimations, hearing loss accounts for 8% of dementia cases, meaning that it may be responsible for 800,000 of the almost 10 million new cases of dementia diagnosed each year.
The Solution: Seeking Treatment
The first step to reducing the negative consequences that untreated hearing loss can have on life is to seek medical treatment. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis through comprehensive testing is essential in identifying the most suitable treatment for the specific type of hearing loss present.
Using appropriate hearing aids and receiving support and education regarding one’s condition can change the way they interact with the world as an individual with hearing loss: social activities are made enjoyable again, the strain on interpersonal relationships caused by the condition is removed, and listener-fatigue and phantom noises are reduced to a minimum.
Do you think you may be suffering from hearing loss? Why not book yourself an appointment for one of our free diagnostic assessments? We offer an in-depth hearing evaluation that has the ability to extensively assess the functionality of your auditory system and help us direct you towards the correct treatment. Click here to book your free hearing test now!