According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a division of the National Institute of Health, 36 million Americans suffer from a hearing loss. And, this is a growing problem as our population ages. Approximately one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have a hearing loss, and this number increases to half of all adults over the age of 75.
The good news is that hearing aids can help. The bad news is that only 20% of those with hearing loss benefit from treatment by actually seeking help. This lack of treatment often affects the social, physical, and cognitive well being of older adults.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
- Social Withdrawal and Depression
In the past, we used to think that hearing loss was simply a part of aging that people had to deal with. There are, however, significant consequences to not treating hearing loss. If you start to lose your hearing, you may withdraw from social activities because you find it too problematic or frustrating. As you socially withdraw, you may become isolated at home, which can also lead to depression.
- General Health Degradation
People who withdraw socially due to hearing loss often find themselves performing fewer physical activities as well. This can lead to health degradation in the form of poor balance, coordination, and ill health. From here, sleeping habits, eating habits, and drinking habits may also change, which can lead to a downward spiral.
- Loss of Balance
Falls among the elderly is an enormous problem. Our sense of balance naturally deteriorates as we age, but few people realize that their ears may also be contributing to the problem. Together with the visual system and proprioception (the orientation of the body parts in space and their sense of position), your ears are responsible for the body’s balance, and compromising one of these systems can lead to a balance disorder.