For many people, a hearing loss diagnosis can be difficult. Whether one could see the signs of hearing loss as it developed or whether it was a bit of a shock to get such a diagnosis, relearning how to live life with different hearing abilities can take a serious toll on one’s mental health.
While there are a number of different treatments available for people with hearing loss, many people leave their hearing loss untreated, sometimes out of embarrassment, denial, or a lack of resources or healthcare. The most obvious consequence of untreated hearing loss is difficulty in hearing, but did you know that untreated hearing loss can also have serious implications on one’s mental health?
According to research conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), untreated hearing loss can have significant consequences on emotional and social well-being, particularly for seniors. After surveying 2,300 hearing impaired adults over the age of 50, the researchers found a correlation between untreated hearing loss and depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Additionally, seniors with hearing loss were less likely to participate in social activities than those who had sought out treatment for their hearing loss.
Since hearing loss affects over 9 million Americans over the age of 65 and another 10 million between the ages of 45 and 64, this is research to pay attention to. But, perhaps more importantly, approximately 3 out of five Americans aged 65 and over and another six out of seven middle-aged Americans with hearing loss do not seek treatment for their conditions.
Other Negative Effects of Hearing Loss
In addition to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and paranoia, people with untreated hearing loss also experience social isolation. Particularly among seniors, loneliness and social isolation are frequent issues, which are, unfortunately, only worsened by untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss and social isolation combined can also have serious implications for one’s cognitive function, especially among seniors. While it is still unclear whether or not cognitive decline and dementia are caused by hearing loss, a correlation between the conditions has been established in recent studies.
Researchers believe that cognitive decline in people with untreated hearing loss could be due to the lack of use in the hearing centers of the brain, which can cause these brain functions to deteriorate over time. Eventually, if someone with prolonged untreated hearing loss does eventually seek out treatment, it is possible that the brain will no longer be able to regain its previous hearing and understanding abilities. This inability to understand others can worsen the social isolation that someone with hearing loss is already feeling and can make someone feel even more isolated.
Mental health is a serious concern for people with untreated hearing loss. If you are concerned about your hearing loss or that of a loved one, the best first step is to contact a hearing healthcare professional to schedule an appointment to talk about your specific needs. Catching hearing loss early could help prevent the cognitive decline and mental health consequences of untreated hearing loss. A hearing healthcare professional can help diagnose hearing loss and discuss treatment options that might be best for you.