Is there really a connection between hearing loss and cognitive disorders?
Yes, there really is. Why, you might wonder? It’s a reasonable question. As studies have found, the effects of hearing loss can be quite profound in people, not only in terms of its medical effects, but also in its social and emotional effects. Let’s put it in real-world terms.
Imagine yourself as a socially active individual (and maybe that does describe you!) You’re someone who loves to spend time with friends and family at get-togethers, group dinners at restaurants, sporting events, going out to the movies — whatever it is, you’re up for having a good time.
But this is precisely where untreated hearing loss can pull the rug out from under your feet.
If you’re experiencing untreated hearing loss, which is an unfortunately common experience, especially for those who are over 55 years of age and aren’t monitoring their health, then your hearing health is deteriorating without you even realizing it. Most people wait between five and seven years from first suspecting they have hearing loss before they do anything about it.
Don’t delay seeking care for your hearing and brain health
This is a crucial time period for your hearing. The sooner we can identify hearing loss, the sooner we can suggest treatments that will preserve the hearing you have while also doing our best to bolster the frequencies you’re missing. But let’s get back to the social aspect of this.
When a person is struggling to hear their best in social situations, it can be extremely difficult to focus on conversations. Hearing speech in noise is one of our patients’ number one complaints when it comes to their hearing.
Furthermore, these situations are exhausting. You see, our brains are kind of like computers. They’re constantly processing data they’re receiving, like sounds, for instance, and translating that data into information that we can understand. It’s doing it so quickly that we don’t have to think about it. The healthier our brains are, the faster this happens.
Untreated hearing loss can cause brain fatigue
When your hearing health is in decline, your brain has to work harder to process this information, making you feel fatigued in social situations where you’re having difficulty clearly hearing what’s happening.
We also often hear our patients tell us that their hearing loss has caused feelings of embarrassment in social situations. Perhaps they misunderstood the conversation and responded with incorrect information, or maybe they didn’t hear that they were being addressed at all.
This can happen to anyone, even those of us with healthy hearing, but when it happens over and over again, these feelings of embarrassment and fatigue can cause you to pull away socially, isolating yourself from your community. This is where things can get dangerous for your hearing and for your brain health.
Isolation yourself when you have hearing loss can lead to auditory deprivation
When you isolate yourself from social situations, you end up isolating yourself from hearing a broader range of sounds, which can potentially lead to what’s called auditory deprivation. The fewer sounds your brain has to process can sometimes lead to an inability to process sounds over time.
In this way, your brain is like the muscles in your body. A period of inactivity, in this case a lack of exposure to sound, can lead to a state of atrophy in the brain. The parts of the brain that were once responsible for processing and interpreting sounds might pivot to taking on other tasks in the body, or the brain might even shrink as a result of this inactivity.
The most important thing you can do if you’re concerned about hearing loss? See an experienced provider, like those at Beltone Tristate. Our hearing care professionals are trained in a wide variety of hearing care techniques, including experience in treating patients with hearing-related cognitive issues.
If we discover a treatable hearing loss throughout the testing process, we can present you with technology options that are designed to help you hear and feel your very best. Wearing your hearing aids as advised and staying active — both physically and mentally — are just some of the ways in which we can support your hearing health journey.