Many people think that leaving hearing loss untreated isn’t a big deal, but, in actuality, failing to treat hearing loss can have big repercussions for you and your health. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the way you hear, it fundamentally changes how your brain functions and more and more researchers are finding that it can leave your body overtaxed and more accident-prone.
Hearing Loss and Cognition
While most hearing loss originates in the ear, it quickly affects other parts of the body and brain. Most often hearing loss is caused by permanent damage in the inner ear where fragile hair cells detect sound waves and transmit the signal to our brain. Hair cells are incredibly small and sensitive and they lack the ability to repair themselves so that when they are damaged, the cell never recovers its ability to function normally.
When damaged hair cells are no longer sending sound signals to the brain, it creates a gap in our hearing. When many hair cells are not working, significant hearing loss results. The sound signal being sent to the brain is incomplete, with missing sound information.
Receiving incomplete information provokes several responses in the brain. First, the mind has to use more resources to process less information. Often, trying to hear with hearing loss, especially in loud or confusing noise situations, strains cognitive abilities. Focus is redirected from other cognitive tasks, such as balance and coordination, and used to piece together auditory information.
At the same time, the familiar neural pathways that the auditory cortex has traditionally used for hearing begin to atrophy. Our brain slowly adapts to a new way of hearing, working hard to compensate for hearing loss. By rerouting the way our hearing works, the infrastructure of our ability to hear is changed. The more time it has to change, the more challenging it can be to recover our sense of hearing when treatment is sought. It’s never too late to think about your hearing health but the sooner you confront hearing issues, the easier it is to adjust to treating them!
Cognition and Accidents
Hearing loss pulls from our cognitive resources and redistributes our focus and attention, prioritizing auditory deciphering. This rearrangement of cognitive functioning has several results, all of which can increase the incidence of accidents and falling injuries.
Cognitive attention is fundamental to keeping us out of harm’s way as we move through the world. When focus is diverted towards keeping up with what we hear, other cognitive tasks often come up short. When it comes to coordination and balance, the result can be quite serious and put a person in danger of serious injury. The less mental space we have for maintaining our physical movements, the more likely accidents become.
Keeping up with conversation or navigating a complicated sound environment with hearing loss can easily become quite exhausting. To properly give our attention to the audio information coming in, the brain works extra hard in ways that it often has to improvise. The resulting fatigue can leave us feeling drained and further affect our ability to coordinate our actions and avoid obstacles.
Luckily, there’s a solution for untreated hearing loss – treating it! Most hearing loss can be effectively treated with hearing aids, helping to curtail the cognitive burden hearing loss places on the brain. Modern hearing aids offer better sound recovery than ever before in a range of discreet and powerful designs to fit every lifestyle. When we treat hearing loss, we give our body and brain the gift of relief from cognitive strain.
Kenwood Hearing Centers
If it is time to treat your hearing issues, it’s time to make an appointment with Kenwood Hearing Centers. Our hearing specialists offer personalized care and comprehensive audiological testing. We listen to your needs to match you with the ideal hearing solution for your lifestyle, programmed specifically to best recover the areas of your hearing where you need it most. Hearing aids can help you recover your hearing health, and change your overall health as well, so get in touch with Kenwood Hearing Centers today!