Having a hearing loss is one thing. But did you know that there are different effects from it that have nothing to do with hearing?
If you delay treatment of your hearing loss, it could affect your physical, mental and social well-being. But if you treat it at an early stage, you can reduce the chances of these consequences occurring.
Hearing loss and reduced brain function
The ear collects and transmits the sounds around us. But it is the brain that processes the signals and gives them meaning.
With hearing loss, the brain receives fewer sounds and “forgets” what to do with them. In recent years, researchers have discovered that when a hearing loss occurs, the areas of the brain that have to do with the other senses take over the areas of the brain that normally process hearing. This is called intermodal cortical reorganization. Essentially, the brain tries to compensate for the hearing loss by rewiring its connections. And this can have a serious effect on cognition.
When the brain’s ability to process sound is reduced, it also affects the ability to understand speech. And even with a mild hearing loss, the hearing areas of the brain become weaker. With weaker areas of hearing, the areas that are necessary for high-level thinking will compensate for these areas. So they replace and take over hearing instead of doing their main job.
The good news is that you can do something about it. Research has indicated that hearing aids can help prevent or delay the deterioration of brain functions.
Hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease
A consequence of untreated hearing loss can reduce brain function. This can encourage conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. At the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine, a study of 100 cases of Alzheimer’s patients found that 83% had a hearing loss.
Once these patients were fitted with hearing aids, 33% were classified as having less severe dementia than Alzheimer’s. According to the Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Research, many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be caused indirectly by hearing loss. But hearing aids can help prevent or delay dementia and, as the above research shows, can reduce the impact of dementia.
Hearing loss and depression
In the United States, the National Council on Aging conducted a large-scale study on the consequences of untreated hearing loss. The study found that people with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids were almost twice as likely to experience depression as those who did treat it. This is often the result of deprivation and social isolation because it is very difficult to have a hearing loss.
The study supports that the use of hearing aids reduces the likelihood of depression, sadness, anxiety or paranoia. In addition to this, a 2017 study suggests that depression due to hearing loss may also be alleviated with the support and understanding of friends and family. Therefore, people with hearing loss may benefit from having a network of people with whom they feel comfortable discussing their problems.
Hearing loss, falls and their consequences
With an untreated hearing loss, the risk of falling also increases, simply because awareness of your surroundings decreases. Falls are responsible for a number of injuries such as broken bones or injuries to the brain, mainly for people over 65.
The reverse: diseases that can cause hearing loss
Type 2 Diabetes
People with diabetes are more than twice as likely to have hearing loss as people without diabetes. Diabetes causes sclerosis of the arteries and thickening of small blood vessels. This affects blood flow to the inner ear. Decreased oxygen flow can eventually result in hearing loss. People with diabetes should have routine checkups to keep their hearing loss at bay.
Cancer can also cause hearing loss indirectly
This is because of the chemotherapy. One of the most hidden side effects of chemotherapy is ototoxicity or toxic damage to the inner ear, a condition that causes hearing loss. According to the University of Arizona Cancer Center, “hearing loss has become one of the most prevalent side effects of modern cancer therapy.
In fact, hearing loss is among the least reported, but potentially devastating, side effects suffered by many chemotherapy patients.
High blood pressure can also lead to hearing loss.
A study by Grant Medical College in Mumbai found that if your blood pressure is high, it can damage your blood vessels, including those in your ear. This leads to a build-up of fatty plaque, which affects your hearing. Therefore, it is important to get treatment for high blood pressure before damage to your hearing occurs.