Our hearing health is something that some of us don’t necessarily pay attention to until too late and the damage is irreversible. While there are options that can help if you have hearing loss such as hearing aids or hearing implants, if your hearing becomes damaged beyond repair, there are a lot of effects that you’ll see in most areas of your life.
Some hearing loss is natural as we age, but there are certain situations that put you more at risk for losing your hearing to some extent. For example, if you work in a loud environment without regularly using ear protection, you may be more likely to experience substantial hearing loss.
There are two primary types of hearing loss. One is called conductive hearing loss which can stem from things like infections or eardrum damage. There’s also something called sensorineural hearing loss caused by aging, exposure to loud noises and some chemicals and medications.
To take the necessary steps to protect and monitor your health now, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the ways in which hearing loss can affect your life.
Ear and hearing health are important to our health and quality of life in many other ways.
Untreated hearing loss can have the following effects.
Issues at Work
For many people, hearing loss can affect them professionally. It may impact their productivity and day-to-day functionality at work and their interactions with customers or patients.
There are some environments where hearing loss can be dangerous, such as a construction site. If you work at a construction site and you have problems hearing verbal instructions, it could be deadly.
Untreated hearing loss can make it more challenging to keep up with the level of performance required in your job, and that can ultimately lead to you being fired or a loss of opportunities at work.
Not being able to hear well can also increase the amount of stress you feel in the workplace.
Hearing loss, as well as a condition called tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears, can increase the likelihood of developing many mental health disorders.
According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 11.4% of adults with self-reported hearing impairment have moderate to severe depression. That’s much higher than the prevalence for people with typical hearing.
People with hearing loss often say they feel like they experience social impairment and isolation.
In older adults, hearing loss is linked with dementia and cognitive decline, according to a study from February 2013 published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The scientists in that study found that reduced social engagement and an increased cognitive load focused on dealing with hearing loss instead of higher-level thinking can cause less cognitive functioning and faster mental decline.
Other mental problems and consequences of untreated hearing loss can include insecurity, anxiety, and frustration. You may feel embarrassed and suffer from low self-esteem or low self-confidence.
During a 2009 British study where 1500 individuals with hearing loss were surveyed, 44% said their hearing loss had caused their relationships, including with friends, family and partners, to suffer.
When someone in the relationship experiences hearing loss, it causes declines in communication, and it can spark arguments. A couple may have a hard time enjoying activities they used to, it can cause financial strain and it can cause resentment.
The effects of hearing loss on a relationship can cause loneliness, social withdrawal, and a loss in casual conversations.
There are so many areas of everyday life where hearing loss can have an impact.
For example, if someone has hearing loss and they go out to eat at a restaurant, it can be difficult for them to have conversations with people they’re with or communicate with servers. Ambient noise, such as what occurs in a restaurant, can make things especially challenging for someone with hearing loss.
For someone who lives in a big city, having hearing loss can be dangerous. In urban areas, you have to listen for things like sirens and vehicle horns, but you also have to hear announcements from public transportation.
Big cities can be tough to navigate even with full hearing, but if you have hearing problems, you may be at an increased risk of being involved in an accident. It can be confusing and stressful as well.
If you have untreated hearing loss, you may not be able to hear music or movies, and if you are watching TV, you may need closed captions to understand what’s going on.
When you experience hearing loss, it can affect your physical health and wellness in different ways. For example, the ears are an integral part of how we keep our balance. The sounds we hear help us stay balanced. If you can’t hear well, you may be more likely to fall.
As was briefly touched on above, hearing loss is linked to dementia, and someone with a severe hearing problem may be five times more likely to develop dementia. There is also research that links hearing loss with brain atrophy, and that can affect not only balance but speech and memory.
So what should you do if you believe hearing loss could be affecting your life?
There are medical interventions such as hearing aids that can significantly improve your quality of life in all ways.
Only around 25% of people who need hearing aids or PSAPs actually use them, perhaps because they fear stigma or they’re in denial about the effects of hearing loss.
If you believe you are experiencing any kind of auditory-related issue, you should contact a specialist and see how they can help you.
Perhaps you can also explain to your loved ones how hearing loss makes you feel and how it affects you every day, and they can work to find ways to communicate more effectively with you.Hearing loss can have far-reaching effects, but it doesn’t have to—help, and resources are available.