We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of challenging or unpleasant chores in favor of something more pleasing or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will some day get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.
Sometimes, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might plan to clear out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the items we rarely use. A clean basement sounds good, but the process of actually lugging items to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the concern of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to find innumerable alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.
In other cases, procrastination is not so innocuous, and when it pertains to hearing loss, it could be downright dangerous. While no one’s idea of a good time is getting a hearing examination, the latest research reveals that neglected hearing loss has major physical, mental, and social consequences.
To understand why, you need to begin with the impact of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a recognizable analogy: 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 size and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t consistently utilize your muscles, they get weaker.
The same thing happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sounds, your ability to process auditory information becomes weaker. Scientists even have a term for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”
Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but persisted to not use the muscles, relying 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 produces a variety of additional conditions present research is continuing to unearth. For instance, a study directed by Johns Hopkins University showed that those with hearing loss suffer from a 40% drop in cognitive function when compared to those with normal hearing, in conjunction with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Overall cognitive decline also results in substantial mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) discovered that those with neglected hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to take part in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
So what begins as an inconvenience—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 leads to general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, strained relationships, and an increased 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 last time. Just after the cast comes off, you start exercising and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recoup your muscle mass and strength.
The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you heighten the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can repair 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, according to The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in almost every area of their lives.
Are you ready to experience the same improvement?