How Treating Hearing Loss Can Support Mental Health

Just How Common is Hearing Loss?

Many people might be surprised to learn that hearing loss is one of the most common disabilities, affecting around 13% of the US population. That’s more people than cancer or diabetes. It is an invisible disability, meaning that you cannot tell from looking at someone if they are deaf or hard of hearing. and it is the umbrella term for a wide spectrum of conditions, ranging from mild difficulty hearing because of muddled details to complete and total deafness. and in fact, it is not only simple to miss in others, it is unfortunately simple for people to try to minimize and live with when they recognize that they themselves are suffering from it. Studies estimate that over two-thirds of those who experience hearing loss do so without seeking treatment. In this way, hearing loss is not only more common than most people believe, but it is also a common cause of more severe disabilities than many people probably know. 

Consequences Of Untreated Hearing Loss On Mental Health

Some consequences of untreated hearing loss are immediately apparent. If it is caused by any physical damage within the ears, the body’s balance system may likely be thrown off, causing dizziness. Even the immediate consequences on one’s physical safety are readily apparent: the likelihood of bumps and falls is increased; the simple orientation and movements most of us take for granted can be complicated; even a slight delay in registering the warning signs of danger in the environment can be deadly. 

More subtle to recognize, but no less dangerous, are the effects that untreated hearing loss can have on one’s mental health. Consider just for a moment how easily these consequences can cascade and accrue dangerous momentum. Someone deaf or hard of hearing can obviously feel lost in a conversation, maybe there are a couple of people talking at once and some background noise. This happens a few times and they are already a little less likely to accept a social invitation next time. Social isolation leads to loneliness and loneliness leads to depression. Depression warps one’s sense of scale and diminishes wonder and things quickly spiral out of control, each bad side effect compounding the others. 

Impacts of Hearing Loss at Different Ages

What was originally just a minor and treatable problem with one’s hearing, perhaps caused by unhealthy recreational habits or professional obligations, has grown into so much more. The hearing loss most likely came on so gradually there was likely not a single moment that could be a call to action. So it was easy to scoff off and defer action.   

But minimizing the significance of even minor hearing loss and thinking you can just adapt to it can lead to serious disadvantages at any stage of life. Congenital hearing loss, which is hearing loss apparent at birth, affects only about three in every 1,000 babies. The vast majority of these, 90%, are born to hearing parents that have no reason to suspect their child may have this problem. But as they come to recognize something may be off with their child’s reflexes or responses, intervention at the earliest possible moment is crucial. Left untreated, hearing loss can throw off a child’s normal developmental progress. And as covered above, negative impacts accrue and spiral, potentially risking educational and eventually professional opportunities. 

The ratio of the population suffering from hearing loss increases with age: The Center for Disease Control estimates that among those aged 18-44, 6.3% are affected. 13.6% of people aged 45-64 are affected. Among people aged 65 and over 26.8% are impacted. And that percentage hits an incredible 50% of those aged 75 and older. Given the potential risks, this is an astonishing percentage of the population living with hidden and unnecessary damage. 

What Is Mental Health And How Can It Be Achieved

The US government’s definition of mental health explains that it: “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

Given what’s at stake, and knowing what you know, it should be clear that there is no good excuse to not take your hearing health seriously. Make an appointment with one of our specialists today and get a clear assessment of your hearing health and what treatment options might be best for you to maximize your overall health and all the advantages that come with doing so.