Hearing loss is a health condition that begins in our ears, but has the potential to affect many other aspects of our health and well being. When significant hearing loss is left untreated it can upend many of the ways we communicate and alter our response to the world around us. Untreated hearing loss, unfortunately, has the potential to greatly impact our quality of life.
When hearing loss deteriorates a person’s quality of life, changes can be noticed that can even seem like a fundamental change in personality. Unaddressed hearing loss makes it far more likely challenges relating to depression, anxiety and isolation will arise. Additionally, untreated hearing loss can contribute to cognitive changes including dementia.
Hearing Loss and Anxiety
Hearing loss that isn’t treated can cause a big disruption in your life. Hearing loss makes it harder and more frustrating to comprehend what others are saying. Listening takes more effort and is less accurate. Most often, you can detect that words are being spoken but their exact meaning may sound muffled or mumbled. All this can make it more stressful and tiring to communicate with others and respond to the environment around you.
Activities that already were high-pressure, such as a business meeting or catching a flight in an unfamiliar airport, can begin to seem overwhelming. Even enjoyable activities like family dinners or a live sports event can become unappealing because it is hard to keep up with the speech and conversations around you. All of this added stress can make you vulnerable to anxiety. Marked by pervasive worry and fear, anxiety can be exhausting and take a toll on your body and personality.
Hearing Loss and Isolation
Unfortunately, the stress related to untreated hearing loss is also prone to changing our behavior. People with untreated hearing loss withdraw and avoid social situations, which can result in isolation- an unwanted lack of connection and contact.
When hearing loss makes noisy environments hard to parse and big group conversations difficult to follow, it can make it hard to engage with others and with activities and places we once enjoyed. These feelings of disengagement and frustration can condition a person to avoid the situations that are challenging. While to the person with hearing loss, this shift may seem natural it can build up into unhealthy social patterns and a noticeable shift in our engagement with our friends and family. Isolating behavior is often seen as a personality shift by others.
Hearing Loss and Depression
Hearing loss that goes untreated also raises a person’s risk of depression which can shift personality in dramatic ways. Depression is marked by profound feelings of sadness and disinterest. These mental states can be fed by the same conditions that make people with untreated hearing loss vulnerable to anxiety and isolation. When people feel uncomfortable or even driven away from once-loved people, places and activities, the sense of misunderstanding can lead to the onset of depression.
Depression can make even the closest relationships hard to maintain and often medication or therapy to address. From the outside, a person’s depression is often seen as sweeping mood and behavior changes. A depressed person’s disinterest in the world may make it hard to seek help or maintain social relationships.
Hearing Loss and Dementia
One of the most dramatic and unfortunate ways that hearing loss can contribute to a change in personality is by increasing a person’s risk of dementia. Dementia is a condition of grave cognitive decline, including changes to mood, memory, problem solving and every day tasks. The connection between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline is rooted in the consistent mental strain unaddressed hearing issues cause in the brain. This strain to comprehend sound disrupts the natural balance of our cognitive tasks and pulls focus away from other important cognitive areas.
As a result of this mental stress, people with untreated hearing loss often see a decrease in their cognitive skills. This stress also appears to contribute to the sharp cognitive decline that marks dementia, which is more than twice as common for people with unaddressed hearing loss than it is for those with healthy hearing.
Treating Hearing Loss
It is extremely serious that when left untreated, hearing loss can restrict a person’s quality of life and even fundamentally alter their personality. Luckily, treating hearing loss can help. Using hearing aids and assistive devices helps reconnect you with the world, strengthen your communication with others and lessens the stress hearing loss places on the brain.