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What’s your hearing loss going to cost you? Maybe you think a decline in hearing normal as you grow older and something you can afford to ignore. You might also believe that there are no consequences if you do. Assuming you even recognize the hearing loss, you might see it as nothing more than a nuisance.

You are not alone in thinking that a little hearing loss can’t hurt you. Medical science is just now becoming aware of the issues associated with hearing decline, especially the effect it has on the brain. Advancements in technology are opening the door to some surprising data, as well. So, how big of a problem is that struggle to hear? Consider seven hidden risks that come with ignoring it.

#1. What are You Missing?

Let’s begin with a basic concern. What are you are not hearing these days? Did your grandchild just say he loves you? How many of those have you missed? How does that make him feel when you don’t hear him say it?

Lack of hearing can isolate you in a way that you might not understand. Everyone likes a little privacy now and then, but there is a difference between isolation and wanting some alone time. You are missing out on hearing the birds sing in the morning. You don’t hear the rainfall or the wind whistle.

Missing out on the important sounds is something that changes your life at every level. It gets in the way of your ability to socialize with others, develop friendships and do your job well. It also makes that precious little grandson feel ignored when he says she loves you.

#2 Social Decline

It’s possible that your hearing loss is more recognizable that you want to think, too. Struggling to hear and that need to focus on what is being said during casual conversation can cause you to withdraw from social situations. Hearing loss will destroy self-confidence and that has an impact, as well. If you find yourself turning down invitations, stop for a minute to evaluate your why. Do you really want to stay home and watch TV or is there something else going on?

#3 Mental Decline

Just recently, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered that even mild hearing loss can increase an individual’s risk of dementia. In a study conducted by Frank Lin, M.D., PhD., researchers followed 639 people for 12 years. Those with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to experience cognitive problems and with moderate hearing loss, the risk tripled. The study participants with serious impairment left untreated were five times more likely to develop conditions like dementia.

The researchers also found that hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline. The volunteers that developed age-related hearing loss over the 12 years of the study showed signs of mental decline up to 40 percent faster than the recipients with normal hearing.

#4 Fatigue

The brain takes the noise that enters the ears and turns it into words and sounds that you can understand. The problem is when you can’t comprehend certain words, your brain will attempt to fill the void and that causes stress. That constant need to compensate for a hearing deficit is one of the reasons for the increased risk of memory problems. It can also leave you feeling mentally exhausted after a meeting or night out with friends.

#5 Poor Work Performance

Your hearing is one of your most critical assets when it comes to your career. When that asset is functioning poorly, it will affect your ability to make money and move up in your job. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found hearing loss had a financial impact. They surveyed 40,000 households to discover that individuals with some hearing loss made up to 12,000 dollars less annually. The culprit is poor communication skills that lead to declined productivity and work-related errors.

#6 Safety

There is a clear safety issue associated with that untreated hearing loss, too, both in and outside the home. If you don’t hear a car coming towards you, what’s to keep you from stepping off the curb? How about something closer to your heart like a family member’s cry for help or the fire alarm going off in the middle of the night.

#7 Depression

All these other risks combined will begin to impact you on a mental level, according to the National Council on the Aging. They found a connection between untreated hearing loss and depression in older people. Poor hearing is common as a person ages. In the U.S., it affects more than nine million people over the age of 65. Of those that don’t get hearing aids, around 30 people report some level depression.

You don’t have to live with hearing loss. It’s a choice for most people and one that does come with significant hidden risks.