Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss:
QUALITY OF LIFE
Research studies show a strong correlation between hearing aid use and quality of life. Patients who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids report improvements in a number of key areas including relationships at home (60%), feelings about self (57%), mental health (44%), self-confidence (35%), sense of independence (31%) and sense of safety (30%). Positive improvements were also noted in social life, physical health, relationships with children and coworkers, sports abilities and sex life.
Falls are a serious concern for the elderly, and a leading cause of injury and death in those aged 65 and older. Individuals with mild hearing loss (25 decibels) are three times as likely to experience a fall; that risk increases 1.4 times for each additional 10 decibels of hearing loss. Researchers theorize this is the result of an increased cognitive burden and lower overall awareness of their surroundings.
Multiple studies have shown a strong link between untreated hearing loss and depression, the result of social withdrawal and isolation. 30% of patients with severe hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids report depression compared with 22% of hearing aid users. Conversely, 42% of hearing aid users regularly participate in social activities versus 32% of nonusers.
SPEECH RECOGNITION/BRAIN SHRINKAGE
Hearing loss has been shown to contribute to brain tissue loss, negatively affecting a patient’s ability to process sound and speech. Hearing aid use helps improve speech comprehension, particularly when it comes to soft speech, and is especially beneficial for those with severe hearing loss.
Sleep apnea not only increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes; it also leads to higher rates of hearing loss. One large-scale study showed patients with sleep apnea had a 31% increase in high frequency hearing loss and a 90% increase in low frequency hearing loss. Overall, the risk of developing both high and low frequency hearing loss was 38% higher in sleep apnea patients.
High blood pressure doesn’t just negatively impact the cardiovascular system; studies show that patients suffering from hypertension also have an increased risk of developing hearing loss and/or tinnitus. Medications to control blood pressure can also help reduce the impact of hearing loss.
Research indicates that poor cardiovascular health affects both the peripheral and central auditory system; damaged blood vessels and a reduction in blood flow to the inner ear may be responsible for an increased risk of hearing loss in patients with cardiovascular disease. The correlation is strong enough to prompt doctors to recommend cardiovascular screening for all patients with low-frequency hearing loss.
Patients with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, possibly because high glucose levels – a telltale sign of diabetes – can damage the blood vessels in the inner ear. Even those with prediabetes are 30% more likely to experience hearing loss. Diabetics should have regular hearing checkups, as early detection is key.
Research shows a sizeable correlation between obesity (defined as a Body mass index of 30 or higher) and hearing loss, most likely the result of reduced blood flow to the inner ear. Additionally, obesity can lead to a number of other health complications such as diabetes and hypertension, that also lead to an increased risk of hearing loss. Obese individuals are 27% more likely to develop hearing impairment; the more extra weight they carry, the higher the risk.