We all put things off, regularly talking ourselves out of difficult or unpleasant tasks in favor of something more pleasing or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will eventually get around to whatever we’re presently trying to avoid.
Often times, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might desire to clean out the basement, for example, by tossing or donating the things we never use. A clean basement sounds good, but the process of actually lugging items to the donation center is not so satisfying. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to find countless alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.
Other times, procrastination is not so harmless, and when it pertains to hearing loss, it could be downright hazardous. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing examination, recent research reveals that neglected hearing loss has serious physical, mental, and social consequences.
To understand why, you have to begin with the impact of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a familiar comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you understand what occurs just after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle mass and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t routinely use your muscles, they get weaker.
The same happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sound, your ability to process auditory information gets weaker. Researchers even have a name for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”
Returning to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but continued to not use the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get increasingly weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the less sound stimulation your brain gets, and the more impaired your hearing gets.
That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which creates a variety of different health issues the latest research is continuing to uncover. For instance, a study directed by Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that those with hearing loss experience a 40% drop in cognitive function in comparison to those with regular hearing, in combination with an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Generalized cognitive decline also causes major mental and social effects. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that those with neglected hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to partake in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.
So what starts out as an aggravation—not being able to hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that impacts all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an elevated risk of developing major medical issues.
The Benefits of Hearing Aids
So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg example one more time. Right after the cast comes off, you start working out and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you regain your muscle mass and strength.
The same process once again applies to hearing. If you increase the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can restore your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, better psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, as reported by The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in virtually every aspect of their lives.