The hidden costs of untreated hearing loss

Untreated hearing loss can seem like an invisible problem, but it carries hidden costs that affect your physical health, mental health, work performance, and relationships.

Understanding these hidden costs is the first step to seeking treatment to regain your quality of life.

Physical health declines

Hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of dementia, falls, hospitalizations, and even early death. How does simply not hearing well impact overall physical health so drastically?

The connections start with social isolation and depression, which are common when people cannot hear well. This leads to a lack of stimulation and activity, resulting in cognitive decline over time. Physical activity levels also decrease. With reduced social contact and less mobility, people experience more accidents like falls. Overall declines in health occur.

Treating hearing loss prevents this downward spiral. Seniors with hearing aids stay active, delaying cognitive decline. With better hearing, they avoid accidents and hospitalizations. Early intervention makes a difference.

Social isolation takes a toll

Withdrawal from social activities is common with untreated hearing loss. Struggling to hear leads many to avoid group settings where they cannot follow conversations. Over time, this social isolation and loneliness negatively impacts quality of life and physical health.

Unable to socialize or attend activities, people with hearing loss start to withdraw more. They miss out on support systems and intellectual stimulation. Anxiety and depression often follow. Social isolation causes declines in well-being.

Using hearing aids allows people to reconnect socially. They can again participate in their faith communities, clubs, and social groups that give life meaning. This social engagement provides protection against cognitive decline and improves quality of life.

Cognitive decline accelerates

Current research shows a strong connection between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. Loss of auditory stimulation to the brain accelerates loss of function over time.

With hearing loss, the auditory parts of the brain are deprived of stimulation. This accelerates brain atrophy. Cognitive load increases as the brain tires, working hard to process sound. Brain shrinkage over time leads to cognitive decline and dementia.

Treating hearing loss nourishes the brain by restoring auditory stimulation. Using hearing aids actually increases brain volume while improving memory, focus, and speed of information processing. Early use of aids prevents cognitive deterioration.

Depression rates rise

Feeling isolated and frustrated are common experiences with unaddressed hearing loss, which often leads to depression. Seeking treatment improves communication ability and reduces isolation, helping resolve underlying depression.

Not being able to follow conversations or engage socially often leads to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, anger, and depression. These feelings worsen as people withdraw further, creating a downward spiral. Unaddressed hearing loss exacerbates or triggers depression.

Getting hearing aids from early improves communication, social abilities, and coping. Fulfilling social interaction enhances mood. Removing barriers to socializing reduces feelings of isolation and the strain of trying to hear among background noise. Treating hearing loss lifts depression.

Work performance suffers

From difficulties interacting in meetings to avoiding important social interactions, untreated hearing loss hinders job performance. Getting hearing aids returns the ability to succeed.

Situational awareness is limited by untreated hearing loss. Miscommunications increase. Voicemails are missed and conversations misinterpreted, compromising job performance. Many find job duties become difficult and begin avoiding interactions.

Hearing aids restore conversational speech comprehension. Suddenly work meetings are easier to follow. Confidence improves. Colleagues notice the better job performance. Treating hearing loss provides tools needed to excel at work.

Relationships deteriorate

Communication is the foundation of relationships. Untreated hearing loss strains relationships as conversations become difficult and misunderstandings occur. Treating hearing loss improves communication and preserves relationships.

Spouses and partners suffer most as untreated hearing loss damages marital satisfaction. Feelings of anger and depression arise when conversations are futile. Social isolation increases. Partners repeat themselves to no avail. Loneliness sets in.

Relationships improve dramatically when hearing loss is treated with properly fit hearing aids. Communication flourishes again, resolving frustration and misunderstandings. Relationships grow closer than ever with effortless conversation.

Accident risk increases

Having reduced hearing increases the risks of accidents like falls and automotive injuries. Hearing aids help restore hearing safety required for situational awareness.

Hearing loss impairs spatial perception as well as the ability to detect prompts like smoke alarms, car horns, or sirens. Safety suffers. Vision cannot fully compensate for declines in hearing ability, especially peripherally.

Wearing hearing aids restores 360-degree auditory environment detection. This enhances safety at home and on the road by restoring situational awareness. Hearing loss treatment reduces risk.

Medical costs grow

Due to increased health risks and accidents, untreated hearing loss drives increased medical utilization and expenses. Treating hearing loss reduces associated health costs.

Study after study reveals the increased healthcare costs connected to unaddressed hearing loss. From increased hospitalizations to additional medications, supplemental insurance claims, and more frequent doctor visits, leaving hearing loss untreated increases medical spending.

Using hearing aids reduces the risk of accidents leading to injury, lowers rates of hospitalization, and improves health enough to decrease medical spending. Treating hearing loss saves money.

Early intervention is key

Many of these declines can be entirely prevented through early intervention. At the first sign of hearing decline, getting hearing aids and proper treatment will keep these hidden costs from impacting your health and life.

Understanding your hearing loss

The first step is having your hearing tested to define type and degree of hearing loss. This establishes a baseline for your hearing ability and guides appropriate treatment.

Types of hearing loss

There are three main types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive – Blockages or damage in the ear canal impact hearing. This type of loss can often be treated medically.
  • Sensorineural – Damage to the inner ear or nerves results in hearing decline. This tends to be a permanent loss treated with hearing aids.
  • Mixed – Hearing loss with both conductive and sensorineural components. The treatment combines medical and hearing aids.

Degree of hearing loss

Hearing loss ranges from mild to profound. Your audiogram and doctor will determine the degree of loss. The severity of loss determines how much amplification you need from hearing aids.

Finding the right hearing aids

With your specific degree and type of hearing loss defined, the search for the right hearing aids begins. Key factors include:

  • Style – Behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, completely-in-canal, receiver-in-the-ear etc.
  • Technology Level – Basic, mid-range, advanced, or premium level options. Higher tech often means more natural sound.
  • Features – Bluetooth, direct phone streaming, rechargeable battery, customized sound settings, and more. Consider your lifestyle and needs.
  • Budget – Hearing aids range in cost from $1,000 to $5,000 per pair. Some insurance plans provide coverage. Financing can help spread out costs.

Adjusting to hearing aids

It takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Most acclimate to the aids in two to three weeks of consistent wear. Keeping expectations realistic, attending follow-up appointments, and joining a support group help with the transition. With modern hearing aids and treatments, people can thrive with hearing loss.