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The costs of putting off hearing aids

Last update on May, 31, 2022

It can be easy to think “What’s the big deal?” about hearing loss. It’s also not uncommon to simply not want to deal with it when signs first pop up.  But the truth is, hearing loss is about more than just needing to turn the TV up a little louder, or asking people to repeat themselves now and then.

Simply put, hearing loss decreases quality of life. It can take a toll on your relationships, your work and so many of the best parts of life. Taking care of your hearing—and addressing problems sooner rather than later—can save you from the literal and metaphorical costs of untreated hearing loss.

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Hearing loss is anything but uncommon. In fact, approximately 15% of American adults 18 and over report some trouble hearing. [1] Despite that statistic, it’s only natural to feel a bit confused and maybe even intimidated by the process of researching and getting hearing aids. After all, it’s not something most people are familiar with until they go through it themselves.

Lots of questions pop up: What’s the cost of hearing aids? What are potential hearing aid limitations? Which hearing aid model is right for me? But ultimately, what’s important is to not let your unfamiliarity or hesitation hold you back. The answer to the key question—when to get a hearing aid—is “as soon as you notice a problem.”

As you weigh your options, it’s important to understand the potential effects of not taking action. If anything, learning about problems that could arise from untreated hearing loss only serves to highlight the benefits of hearing aids. Delaying the decision can mean greater hearing loss over time, but it can also impact your physical, emotional, mental and even financial wellbeing. By proactively treating your hearing, you’ll be taking a big step to support your quality of life over the long term.

The costs of waiting to get hearing aids

Our bodies are intricately constructed and endlessly interconnected. Remember the children’s song about the hip bone being connected to the thigh bone being connected to the knee bone? It’s a great basic way to understand that what happens to one part of our bodies can affect many others—and that idea applies to hearing as much as it does to your bones.

Your hearing is linked to many other systems in your body; if it’s compromised, you’re likely to notice the effects in other areas too. The consequences of untreated hearing loss can lead to issues with your health and wellbeing in the short term and the long term, so it’s important to understand where and how the repercussions can show up. 

Physical effects of hearing loss:

Your hearing helps you engage with the world around you and enjoy your favorite activities. Hearing can also impact your physical abilities, too. Hearing and balance are closely interrelated, and the epicenter for both is the inner ear, which helps you maintain equilibrium and orient yourself in space. This means that if someone is experiencing hearing loss, it’s likely that they are or will be dealing with balance issues as well.

Studies have shown that even a mild case of hearing loss triple the risk of an accidental fall. This risk increases by 40 percent for every 10 decibels of hearing loss. [2] Ask anyone who’s taken a bad fall or cared for someone who has—it’s a mishap that you definitely want to avoid, not just for short-term pain, but for the other problems it can lead to.

Emotional effects of hearing loss:

Hearing is at the heart of meaningful connections with our friends, family and coworkers. When symptoms like difficulty hearing in crowded spaces or frequently misunderstanding words crop up, many people, knowingly or not, become less inclined to interact. Research has demonstrated that hearing loss is strongly linked to loneliness: For people under 70, every time their sound perception reduces by one decibel, there is a corresponding increase of their chances of being severely lonely, by as much as 7 percent. [3] But closing yourself off from others is the last thing you want to do.

Hearing decline and associated social isolation also carry an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Not only can hearing loss decrease quality of life in terms of emotional health, but it can also have negative effects on interpersonal relationships. Maintaining your most important and meaningful relationships, with significant others, children, grandchildren and friends, will greatly benefit from making sure that you’re able to interact and communicate. 

Brain effects of hearing loss:

Your ears play an important role in hearing, but the brain is where the magic of sound processing really happens. Hearing loss can put an extra burden on the brain, making it work that much harder to effectively process sound, and interfering with the other processes it has to tackle for daily life.

Numerous studies have found a link between hearing loss and dementia; in one, scientists found that the greater a person’s hearing loss, the more likely they were to experience cognitive decline. Even mild hearing loss meant the odds of experiencing dementia were two times greater, and the risk rose concurrently with the severity of hearing loss. [4] This connection can stem from the brain picking up on fewer signals from the ears, as sounds are minimized by hearing loss. This causes brain function to begin to decline at a faster rate—another compelling reason to make sure that your hearing is well attended to.

Financial effects of hearing loss:

While there are significant metaphorical costs associated with delaying hearing loss treatment, there are also literal costs, in the form of decreased earning potential.

Studies estimate that lifetime earnings for people with untreated hearing loss average 50-70 percent less than their hearing coworkers and can decrease an employee’s annual income by up to $12,000. [5] Workers with untreated hearing loss are also more likely to face unemployment compared to their hearing coworkers. [6]

Because the professional world can be a difficult environment to navigate with hearing loss, it’s important to do what you can to make it easier to capitalize on business and career opportunities, and to forge connections with colleagues and clients. 

Investing in your quality of life:

The potential consequences of ignoring hearing loss are daunting, but, conversely, taking control of your hearing can be empowering. Dismissing hearing loss as a normal side effect of aging or taking a wait-and-see approach is common. Making the mental leap to admit that you have hearing loss can be undeniably tough. However, having a full understanding of what hearing aids can do, for hearing loss mitigation and as a tool in staving off other problems, can help make the decision easier.

Working with an experienced hearing care professional at Miracle-Ear can also help you gain clarity about what your needs are and which hearing aids can help you maintain or return the lifestyle you’re used to. 

How emotional wellbeing improves:

With hearing aids, you can get back in the conversation and minimize risk factors for social isolation. In a study of older adults experiencing hearing loss, perceptions of loneliness significantly declined after four to six weeks of hearing aid use. While wearing hearing aids was effective across all types of hearing loss, those with moderate-to-severe hearing loss felt the greatest reduction in perceived loneliness. [7]

Hearing aids can also help in decreasing the risk for dementia. A 2021 study found that hearing-impaired adults who wear hearing aids were at a significantly lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who were not using hearing aids. [8] Even as scientists continue to study these exciting prospects, taking steps to care for your hearing and protect your brain health is a two-birds-one-stone action that you can take now. 

How work improves with hearing aids:

Communication at work is essential and it’s possible to engage fully in the workplace, even if you have a hearing loss. Many workplaces offer accommodations for workers with hearing loss, including assistive listening devices, closed captioning and customized office arrangements.

To the degree that you feel comfortable, talk with your boss and your coworkers about the impact of hearing loss on your work and how specialized accommodations can help meet your needs. This clear communication can make a big difference, but the addition of hearing aids can offer even more improvement in your workplace experience.

Workers who wear hearing aids have been shown to dramatically reduce their risk of income loss. Potential loss is reduced by 90-100 percent for those with milder forms of hearing loss and by 65-77 percent for those with moderate to severe hearing loss. [9] Making the change of wearing a hearing aid to work can mean a significant difference in pay, income potential and work satisfaction. 

Preventing the costs of untreated hearing loss

As you weigh the advantages of hearing aids, it’s important to understand just how powerful a protective health measure and useful daily tool these devices can be. From combating loneliness and mitigating the risk of related health issues to bridging gaps in the workplace, choosing to treat your hearing loss sooner rather than later has far-reaching effects. Ultimately, taking action to treat your hearing loss is a priceless investment in the life that you love.

To learn more about the repercussions of untreated hearing loss, and what the available hearing aid options can do for you, visit your neighborhood Miracle-Ear or schedule an appointment by phone or online.

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