Consequences of Hearing Loss

Hearing is our most critical sense when it comes to our ability to communicate, and even small degrees of hearing loss can have profound effects on how we interact and connect with others. Being separated from that ability not only has consequences for our employment or relationships — it can have physical effects, as well, that can detract significantly from overall health.

Social Effects of Hearing Loss

Those suffering from hearing loss often begin to notice their difficulty in these circumstances:

  • Hearing conversations in large groups
  • Participating in conversation in restaurants or other settings with background noise
  • Hearing while speaking on the telephone
  • Understanding women’s and children’s voices

Party settings and even small family gatherings can strain the brain to the point where the additional mental effort required to decode what seems like broken speech can become tiresome. Eventually such social situations can become so difficult that those experiencing hearing loss may begin to withdraw from them altogether. Individuals instead begin to prefer less demanding, quieter settings — often away from the precious social contact that enriches our lives and draws us closer to the ones we love.

The stress of living with hearing loss, too, can have its own consequences:

  • Distrust of others as miscommunications arise
  • Frustration at not feeling understood or understanding others
  • Feeling socially marginalized

Reluctance to seek treatment or to wear hearing aids can cause additional stress when individuals — often unconsciously — wish to conceal their hearing loss, and potentially miss out on important communications. Compromised hearing in the workplace, for instance, can have significant effects on job performance and even earning potential.

Physical Effects of Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss over extended periods of time can have damaging physical effects, as well, when the auditory system goes unused. Auditory deprivation, as hearing care professionals refer to it, leaves nerves and portions of the brain underused, and — like other parts of the body — if the auditory system goes unused, it can begin to atrophy. Without fail, in our experience, the longer a patient waits to address their hearing loss, the more difficult it is to recover one’s ability to communicate.

Other effects of hearing loss include:

  • Increased risk of falls & hospitalization
    • Our hearing allows us to keep our balance. Without that, there is a large increase in the chance of falling.
  • Impaired memory
    • Because the brain is concentrating so hard on trying to hear, it takes away from other areas of brain function. Memory is a function affected by hearing loss, which may eventually lead to conditions like dementia.
  • Mental Fatigue
    • Focusing so hard on hearing can be extremely stressful and frustrating, causing the brain to tire out quickly.

The good news is that treating hearing loss can improve balance, increase social life participation and the ability to stay mentally and physically active. Hearing loss is not the end of the world if treated properly.

Since most hearing loss develops gradually over time, it can be difficult to know how well you are hearing now compared with how well you used to hear. Only an accurate hearing assessment by a certified hearing care professional can reveal if you are having difficulty with specific sounds, and if so, how you might be able to hear better. If you would like to learn more about the hearing loss or to schedule an appointment at Audiology Clinic, contact us today.