Hearing loss can be frustrating and disheartening to the people experiencing it and their loved ones. Navigating a predominantly hearing world as an individual on the deafness spectrum is often quite challenging. Deafness, however, does not only affect your ability to hear; it has also been linked with several side effects that can take a toll on your overall health.
1. Cognitive Decline
Hearing loss has been reported to be connected with dementia and it may even be responsible for one tenth of all 47 million cases worldwide.
There are various theories as to why this might be the case. One of them is that the increased effort required to interpret speech that hearing loss involves leads to changes in brain structure and neurodegeneration.
Another factor that could explain the connection between the conditions is the possibility of brain atrophy occurring due to the lack of auditory input resulting in understimulation of the cells and ultimately- shrinking of the brain as it is no longer required to work in order to interpret sound.
According to the recent work of a research team from Newcastle University, the memory centres positioned inside the temporal lobe could be a key aspect of the relationship between hearing loss and dementia. A theory is currently being looked into which entails the brain changes that occur as a result of hearing loss may cause the presence of abnormal proteins that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Mental Health Issues
Experiencing hearing loss means dealing with a range of mental and emotional effects, including changes to your self-esteem and the way in which you interact with others. Coming to terms with the condition can involve a lot of anger and denial due to the challenges of adjusting to a new life and perhaps giving up some of your independence.
Since hearing speech in social settings can be quite hard for individuals with hearing loss, it is very common to begin avoiding situations which involve communication with others. This often leads to social withdrawal.
Isolation, in turn, may cause even more mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.
3. Digestive Problems
As mentioned above, hearing loss can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety in the lives of those impacted by it. Whether you experience this anxiety on a conscious level or not, it can have some very real physical side effects, including an upset stomach. Issues such as diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal cramps might occur, and they can be from mild to severe in intensity.
Since gut health is sensitive to chronic mental distress, if the anxiety goes unmanaged for a prolonged period of time, this can eventually lead to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome): a chronic digestive disorder which can seriously affect impacted individuals’ quality of life.
4. Balance Difficulties
Inside the ear, balance and hearing are interconnected as they share a common nerve pathway to the brain. The vestibular system that helps you maintain your balance is almost entirely positioned deep in the inner ear. According to research, your ability to hear directly affects your balance, and even mild hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of falling.
5. Muscle Tension
The prolonged anxiety that individuals with hearing loss often experience causes muscles to contract, leading to muscle tension. While this is one of the most common physical symptoms of stress, the pain brought on by muscle tension can cause additional worry and may significantly decrease the quality of life of those impacted, leading to discomfort and mobility issues.
Nothing can worsen the side effects of hearing loss like leaving the condition untreated. You might be tempted to postpone seeking medical treatment, and that is understandable: many people feel that way due to the stigma that is, unfortunately, still attached to deafness in society.
However, receiving a correct diagnosis and appropriate hearing aids can completely transform your life as a person with hearing loss and can change the entire way in which you experience the world, including the way you feel inside your own body.