The Official SoundScape Weblog

The Official SoundScape Weblog

Ears to Hear

The Dangers of Ignoring Hearing Loss

     Many people ignore their hearing loss and its effects because they assume that it is a natural part of aging. It is often assumed that a mild or moderate hearing loss doesn’t really have much of an effect upon a person. Even people with severe hearing loss reckon that it’s easier, and cheaper, to just live with a hearing loss.  


     A 1999 report by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) entitled The Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss in Older Persons, found that adults with untreated hearing impairment were more likely to experience the following:


"embarrassment, fatigue, irritability, tension and stress, anger, avoidance of social activities, withdrawal from social situations, depression, negativism, danger to personal safety, rejection by others, reduced general health, loneliness, social isolation, less alertness to the environment, impaired memory, less adaptability to learning new tasks, paranoia, reduced coping skills, and reduced overall psychological health."


This study shows that even those things which may be attributed to the natural process of aging such as “reduced general health”, “fatigue” and “impaired memory” will more likely and more significantly impact  those with untreated hearing loss.


     The psychological and emotional effects of untreated hearing loss can be devastating to a person’s quality of life, especially the damaging effects it can have upon our relationships. Hellen Keller articulated this better than anyone when she said,


"I am just as deaf as I am blind. The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus – the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man."


In short, the loneliness which afflicts so many seniors, and the self-imposed isolation of some, may really be the result of an untreated hearing loss.


     It has also been demonstrated that there is a link between hearing loss and dementia( The link is not yet clearly understood, but one thing is clear: an untreated hearing loss worsens the effects of cognitive decline. Those who have dementia function better when their hearing loss is treated; in fact, some symptoms which may be attributed to dementia may merely be the effects of miscommunication caused by an untreated hearing loss.


     Often when a person finally feels it is time to do something about their hearing loss the effects cannot be fully reversed and what can be reversed takes more effort than they expected. This is why so many seniors complain about noisy situations, where background noise makes it difficult for them to hear the person they are trying so hard to hear. They have lost some of their ability to tune out the background noise and focus upon the person they are trying to hear. They have not only lost the ability to hear sound in a normal way, they have lost some of their brain’s ability to process sound, because they have gone so long without hearing those sounds in a normal way. So, if you or someone you know has a hearing loss the sooner that loss is treated the greater the benefit and the easier the adjustment will be.


     In order to maintain our optimal health it is vital that we remain physically active as well as mentally and socially active. In order to stay active it is important that we hear as well as possible. Those who know they have a hearing loss, but feel it is not yet “bad enough” to get hearing aids often do not notice or understand the gradual way in which their hearing loss affects them. They do not notice the price their inaction is costing them.

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