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Man suffering from hearing loss considering the side effects of losing his hearing.

Picture hearing loss and most people picture an elderly person with an old-fashioned hearing aid saying, “What’s that sonny”? Having an effect on more than just your ability to hear, hearing loss has increased sharply among all age groups. There are surprising health effects for people who neglect it. It’s worth getting your hearing checked based only on these four.

1. Cognitive Decline

There is an association between hearing loss and other health issues, though you might not have previously known about them. The most significant is the impact hearing loss has on your cognitive functions and brain health. There is evidence that some conditions people associate with aging, like memory loss, may actually be caused by hearing decline.

The brain’s natural ability to adjust to sensory changes backfires when it comes to hearing. The brain can understand sound that is processed through the inner ear when hearing is normal. The difference between the music playing on your car radio and the music the ice cream truck plays as it heads down the street is sorted out by this mechanism.

Even if you don’t notice it, the brain encounters sound every microsecond. If you are sitting in a quiet room, there is still background noise around you, like the hiss of air blowing through the AC vent. Your brain interprets this as a sound you don’t need to know about, so you don’t even notice it.

The brain comes to expect this stimulus. When there is hearing loss, suddenly it doesn’t get the same quantity or quality of sound. It strains to find the missing sound believing it should still be present. Your risk of dementia is increased because the absence of stimuli causes cognitive decline due to increased stress on the brain. Studies have shown that memory loss and cognitive decline is around 40 percent higher in seniors with hearing loss. Even more persuasive, people who suffer from hearing loss that get treatment like hearings aids have been shown to improve cognitive function.

2. Stomach Problems

That seems like a stretch, but it’s not. The changes you experience because of hearing loss have been associated with side effects like:

  • Upset stomach
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle tension

The ongoing stress can cause intestinal issues like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramps

More serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome will happen as your discomfort increases.

3. Mental Health Concerns

The affect hearing loss has on your mental health is probably the most obvious side effect. A 2014 study found that a decline in hearing correlates to a rise in depression in adults below the age of 70.

The depression is most likely accounted for by the fact that people who have hearing loss have a difficult time communicating with others, according to JAMA Otolaryngology Neck Surgery. The research indicates that depression is more pronounced in women between the ages of 18 to 69.

Over the years, the untreated hearing loss has been linked to many mental health problems like:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Anger
  • Lack of focus
  • Negativism
  • Irritability

People who can’t effectively communicate stop trying and that leads to depression and psychological stress.

4. Relationship Troubles

Hearing loss impacts more than just your physical and mental health. Statistically, if a person has hearing loss, they will probably make less money. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found 20,000 dollars per year less is made by individuals with hearing loss in comparison to their hearing colleagues.

Personal relationships also suffer because of hearing loss. A 2007 survey found 35 percent of the respondents with hearing loss had trouble maintaining relationships. The survey showed:

  • Thirty-five percent of men reported they agreed to treatment for hearing loss because their spouse or partner pressured them into it
  • Forty-three percent of men indicated that hearing loss caused relationship problems
  • Thirty-seven percent of women interviewed reported getting annoyed when someone with hearing loss wasn’t listening to them
  • Most women indicated relationships with family members and friends were a significant concern with the hearing loss

Hearing loss has an effect on your relationships as well as your health and how you feel about yourself. The good news is many of these side effects go away or lesson when you get help like hearing aids. Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to find out what course of action is best for you.