We all put things off, routinely talking ourselves out of complex or uncomfortable chores in favor of something more pleasurable or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will some day get around to whatever we’re presently working hard to avoid.
Usually, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might plan to clean out the basement, for example, by tossing or donating the items we seldom use. A clean basement sounds great, but the activity of actually lugging things to the donation center is not so pleasant. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to notice countless alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.
Other times, procrastination is not so innocent, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, the latest research shows that neglected hearing loss has severe physical, mental, and social consequences.
To understand why, you have to begin with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a well-known comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you are aware of what occurs just after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle mass and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t consistently use your muscles, they get weaker.
The same happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sounds, your capability to process auditory information becomes weaker. Researchers even have a name 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 make use of the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get steadily 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 can cause a host of other ailments the newest research is continuing to identify. For instance, a study directed by Johns Hopkins University reported that those with hearing loss experience a 40% decline in cognitive function compared to those with normal hearing, together with an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Generalized cognitive decline also produces significant mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) revealed that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to partake in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
So what starts out as an annoyance—not having the ability to hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that disturbs all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an elevated risk of developing major medical ailments.
The Benefits of Hearing Aids
So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one last time. The moment the cast comes off, you start working out and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you regain your muscle mass and strength.
The same process once again applies to hearing. If you increase the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recover your brain’s ability to process and comprehend 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 nearly every area of their lives.
Are you ready to accomplish the same improvement?