When an urgent medical problem first shows up, many people are anxious to correct it – for example, you wouldn’t put off fixing a broken leg until a later date! When the problem is more progressive, however, it often goes unrecognized, or its treatment is put off until the last possible moment. Unfortunately, this is often the case with hearing loss.
Consequences of untreated hearing loss in children
The cost of treating hearing loss, or any other hearing impairment, might be seen as expensive to some, but the result of NOT treating it can be even greater. In children, the inability to hear properly can interfere with the normal development of speech, and have detrimental effects on their learning when they reach school age.
In today’s school system, more is expected of children at younger ages. A child with an untreated hearing problem can quickly fall behind, affecting their ability to learn and also their self-esteem. When hearing impairments are diagnosed and treated early, however, a hearing impaired child can often enjoy the same quality of life as one with normal hearing.
Effects of untreated hearing loss in adults
The same is true for hearing loss in older adults – the sooner it is recognized and treated, the better the quality of life. Furthermore, the negative effects of uncorrected hearing loss, can be mitigated. These effects include the following:
- Social isolation – Adults who can’t hear well often avoid places where it’s difficult to hear, such as crowded restaurants, shops, or even visits to a friend’s house. This can lead to staying home alone and isolation from family and friends.
- Increased risk of depression – This is typically related to the social isolation mentioned above. Without the stimulation and engagement that comes with meaningful social interactions, individuals with untreated hearing loss can become depressed.
- Decline in cognitive functioning – Some research studies have shown that when your ears don’t pick up on auditory stimuli as well as they used to, your brain actually has a harder time processing sounds and speech. When you can’t hear well, it’s more difficult to make sense of your surroundings. When left untreated for too long, it may be increasingly difficult to get that brain function back.
- Impaired balance – Sometimes hearing loss is caused by problems in the inner ear, the portion of the ear that is also greatly responsible for your sense of balance. An untreated inner ear malady could also lead to poor balance and an increased risk of falling.
- Safety risks – Untreated hearing loss means you’re less likely to hear things that were meant to keep you safe – verbal warnings, a smoke alarm, or sirens, to name a few. Without the auditory signals to warn you, you could find yourself in some potentially dangerous situations.
The solution to untreated hearing loss
The first step to solving any problem is recognizing the problem in the first place. When it comes to hearing loss, many individuals simply do not want to admit that they have a problem, and often ignore the helpful nudges of friends or family members who encourage them to get help.
When you’ve come to the realization that you need help with your hearing, schedule an appointment with an audiologist or other hearing healthcare professional. They will be able to conduct a thorough hearing evaluation and provide appropriate recommendations that make sense for you, your individual situation, and your budget. There’s no reason to keep living with untreated hearing loss!