Studies Show Untreated Hearing Loss Leads to Loneliness

Hearing loss has profound effects on the daily lives of thousands of Plano residents. It’s linked to a variety of physical, social and psychological issues; new research shows that people with hearing loss are more likely to experience loneliness—especially if they don’t treat their condition.

Barriers to Treatment in Plano

barrier in front of a door

Hearing loss affects 48 million Americans of all ages, making it one of the most common chronic health conditions in Texas and across the country. Only arthritis and heart disease rank higher. Given the large number of patients and the availability of a treatment solution that benefits 90 percent of those afflicted, you would think that most people take steps to improve their quality of life.

But surprisingly, only about one out of every five older adults with hearing loss wears hearing aids. This leaves 23 million people with untreated hearing loss. According to JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, over a ten-year period the likelihood of developing additional conditions goes up.

How often does untreated hearing loss cause other problems after 10 years?

  • Are 50 percent more likely to experience dementia
  • Are 40 percent more likely to experience depression
  • Are 30 percent more likely to sustain falls

Why do people choose not to get hearing aids?

Why are so many people forgoing hearing aids? There are several reasons, starting with the fact that it’s possible many of them don’t even know they have a hearing impairment.

Hearing loss usually develops gradually; as it does, the brain is quite adept at filling in the blanks by diverting resources from key cognitive areas, such as memory and concentration, to assist in hearing. This makes recognizing the signs difficult.

Even when aware of their condition, many choose to skip a visit to the audiologist. Some fear there is a stigma associated with hearing aid use, others don’t think hearing aids will make much of a difference in their lives. Cost is an issue for many; few health plans cover the costs associated with hearing treatment, including Medicare.

Does hearing loss go away on its own?

Unfortunately, ignoring your condition won’t do you any favors. In fact, it increases your risk of experiencing many related health problems. Because following conversations can cause strain and listening fatigue, many people with hearing loss end up withdrawing from social activities.

This leads to isolation and loneliness; a recent Dutch study showed that for people under the age of 70, every decibel drop in hearing perception was associated with a seven percent increase in the likelihood of severe loneliness.

The worse hearing loss gets, the greater the complications.

The more profound the hearing loss, the more severe loneliness becomes. This can trigger other health issues such as stress, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, increasing the risks of developing dementia by 40 percent and premature death by 26 percent. This has prompted some health experts to call social isolation as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Why does hearing loss increase dementia risks?

The close connection between hearing loss, loneliness and dementia is well-established if not quite understood. Loneliness is known to increase stress hormones and inflammation, factors that can lead to dementia.

Compounding the problem? The lack of brain stimulation associated with isolation can speed up cognitive impairment.

Research by Johns Hopkins University is currently underway to determine whether treatment for hearing loss can delay or prevent cognitive decline and reduce loneliness. Upon completion of the study in 2022, doctors are hopeful that new treatment solutions will be available for hearing-impaired patients.

If you suspect hearing loss, schedule a visit today.

The sooner hearing loss is detected, the better your odds of avoiding long-term health complications. Your Plano audiologist recommends regular hearing screenings to help catch any problems early.

Related Hearing Loss Posts: