The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults

Did you know that hearing loss affects around 36 million Americans?  The incidence of hearing loss increases drastically as the population ages.  Around one third of the population aged 65-74 are affected by hearing loss and the number increases to half of the population of those aged 75+.  Surprisingly, only one in seven of those folks with hearing loss actually uses a hearing aid.  Furthermore, that individual may have waited an average of seven years prior to seeking help. 


Hearing loss can be caused by several different factors.  It can be hereditary, it can be caused by occupational or recreational noise, it can have a gradual or sudden onset and it can even be medically related or caused.  A lot of how the hearing loss begins can affect just exactly how a person copes with their hearing loss.  An individual who has a slowly progressing family related hearing loss may accept their hearing loss better than an individual who loses their hearing suddenly.  Additionally, there are many different types, degrees, and severity of hearing loss which can also impact the way a person feels about their hearing loss.  Unfortunately, any combination of the above factors of hearing loss have been related to feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration, social isolation and even fatigue (ASHA, 2020).  Hearing loss is an extremely individual experience that is difficult to understand by those without hearing loss.


In a study completed by Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D, he found that even mild hearing loss can double a person's risk for developing dementia.  Furthermore, moderate hearing loss tripled their risk and a person with severe hearing loss was found to be about five times more likely to develop dementia than those without any hearing loss.  When hearing loss begins, your brain tends to receive less environmental stimulation than it typically would without hearing loss.  This lack of stimulation or “exercise” to the brain is what leads to memory loss or dementia. 


In another study conducted by the Seniors Research Group, an alliance between NCOA and Market Strategies, Inc, found that significantly more seniors with untreated hearing loss (individuals not wearing hearing aids) reported feelings of sadness or depression that lasted longer than during previous years or when compared to those who do not have hearing loss.  Non hearing aid users also reported a greater incidence (23%) of feeling like people would get angry at them for no reason when compared to hearing aid users (14%).  When compared to individuals with more severe hearing loss, the number increased to 36%.


So why are there so many individuals with untreated hearing loss?  A lot of people feel as though their hearing “is not bad enough” or that they are able to “get along just fine”.  As we now know from the research, there are several millions of people who would benefit from the use of a hearing aid.  If you or a loved one is struggling with their hearing loss, please contact one of our offices today to get scheduled for a hearing evaluation and to see if hearing aids are right for you!



Hannah Prather, AuD, CCC-A, FAAA

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