If you’re experiencing hearing loss in Charleston, your odds of facing an associated health condition are higher. Hearing impairment has been linked to many physical, social and psychological side effects. One of the most common is loneliness.
What Prevents People from Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss?
The impacts of hearing loss are far-reaching and affect a wide range of everyday activities.
With hearing aids offering a proven solution for most hearing-impaired individuals in Charleston, it seems a majority of people would seek treatment—but studies show that only around 20 percent of older Americans with hearing loss wear hearing aids. That means there are 23 million adults with untreated hearing loss.
What are the effects of untreated hearing loss?
These folks are taking an unnecessary risk. According to research published in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, over a 10-year period untreated hearing loss:
- Increases the risk of dementia by 50 percent
- Increases the risk of depression by 40 percent
- Increases the risk of falls by 30 percent
The key phrase, in case you didn’t catch it, is “increases the risk.”
With such impactful numbers, you’d think treatment would be a high priority. There are many reasons why patients choose to skip a trip to their audiologist’s office. For starters, some probably aren’t even aware of their condition.
Why aren’t people treated for hearing loss?
Because hearing loss usually develops gradually and the brain helps fill in the missing gaps by diverting resources from other key areas into helping you hear, it can be difficult to recognize the signs as you adapt to diminished hearing.
Many who are aware of their impairment hold off on treatment due to a perceived stigma over hearing aids, believing they’ll make them look older.
Others doubt wearing hearing aids will make a difference and don’t even bother trying them out.
Price is another barrier; hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars, and many health care plans—Medicare included—won’t cover the costs. If finances are tight, you’re going to focus on essentials first (even though few would deny that hearing is an essential sense!).
What are the consequences of untreated hearing loss?
By ignoring the problem, you are setting yourself up for additional health concerns.
The strain and fatigue that occur when hearing-impaired individuals struggle to follow conversations cause many to not even bother trying.
Withdrawal from social activities leads to isolation and loneliness—a recent Dutch study found that for every decibel drop in perception experienced by people under age 70, there was a corresponding seven percent increase in the likelihood of suffering from severe loneliness.
The more severe the hearing loss, the worse loneliness becomes. This creates a chain reaction of health problems including stress, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Social isolation is considered by some experts to be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It increases your risk of developing dementia by 40 percent and your odds of premature death by 26 percent.
Is hearing loss connected to dementia?
Hearing loss, loneliness and dementia are all closely connected, though the exact reasons are unclear.
Studies have shown that loneliness increases stress hormones and inflammation, both of which are associated with dementia. The lack of brain stimulation that occurs with isolation may also accelerate cognitive decline.
A team from Johns Hopkins University began a random controlled study in 2018 to research whether treating hearing loss can delay or prevent cognitive decline and reduce loneliness. The four-year study will be completed in 2022 and might help doctors develop new treatment solutions for patients with hearing loss.
Don’t let hearing loss keep you from treatment
It’s important to schedule an appointment with a hearing and balance specialist in Charleston if you’re experiencing any signs of hearing loss. If hearing aids are recommended, they’ll improve your quality of life and prevent you from experiencing a variety of health complications.
Related Hearing Loss Posts:
- Age-Related Genes for Hearing Loss Discovered
- Can Essential Oils Help with Hearing Problems?
- How Hearing Loss Leads to Cerebral Atrophy
Our Charleston Area Audiologists Office Locations
2295 Henry Tecklenburg Dr
Charleston, SC 29414
298 Midland Pkwy
Summerville, SC 29485
537 Folly Road
Charleston, SC 29412