Hearing Loss: Symptoms, Dangers, and Solutions – Part II

Did you know that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing? Shelly Rogerson, RN, who is board certified by the International Hearing Society, recently visited Shell Point and shared insights about hearing loss symptoms, dangers, and solutions. Part II focuses on the dangers of hearing loss.

Losing your hearing can have social, emotional, and cognitive repercussions. If you are not hearing as well as you used to, you may start to avoid activities you once loved. Or, you may try to minimize communication with others because you are afraid you will miss out on parts of the conversation. Hearing loss can strain relationships and cause tension, anger, frustration, and feelings of rejection.

Hearing loss can also lead to depression, with 60% of those who have hearing loss displaying symptoms of depression; 52% displaying increased irritability and frustration; and 22% reporting trouble sleeping.
A Johns Hopkins study found that hearing loss was linked to memory and cognition issues, and that hearing loss participants experienced mental decline three years sooner than did those with normal hearing. Long-term absence of sound can lead to diminished auditory processing, or auditory deprivation. In simple terms, the brain no longer understands the signals from the ear.

Auditory deprivation can be attributed to many causes: there is no amplification; you may be unaware it’s happening; you think it’s normal for age; you delayed help; or you think it can’t be helped. Another cause is wearing only one hearing aid when two are required. 25% of monaural users had significant decline in discrimination, compared with the binaural user’s decline of 6%. Hearing may remain constant, but speech discrimination decreases. Speech discrimination— the measure of how well you understand what you hear when speech is loud enough to hear comfortably— is affected by auditory deprivation. The long-term absence of sound can lead to diminished auditory processing, meaning the brain no longer understands the signals from the ear.

Check back for Part III, Hearing Loss Solutions, to learn about ways to mitigate hearing loss.