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Could Hearing Loss Increase Your Risk for Psychosis?

If you struggle with untreated hearing loss, but think it’s not a big deal, think again. Hearing loss affects millions of Americans, and leads to much more than just missing a few sounds. Those living with untreated hearing loss have more struggles in their relationships due to difficulty communicating, and have worse mental, emotional and physical health. If that isn’t enough, a new study points to the increased risk of developing psychosis or other mental illnesses in those with hearing loss. Living with untreated hearing loss is never worth it – for many reasons.

What Happens When You Lose Your Hearing?

Losing your hearing isn’t just about sounds. While this is the beginning, missing sounds means you start to have problems communicating effectively with family and friends. This can be difficult, since you can’t follow the conversations around you, and might not reply correctly because you just can’t figure out what’s going on. If you feel uncomfortable around people, you’ll start to pull back, stay home more often, or isolate yourself. Meeting new people causes so much anxiety that you may stop going out altogether. This kind of social isolation is a precursor to mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. When you pull back from your friends, it’s easy to see that you’ll have less social support, feel sad or lonely, and have worse health outcomes.

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a mental disorder where a person completely loses their grip on reality. They see, hear, and experience many things, but can’t tell which are real and which are not. These hallucinations can include seeing things that aren’t there and hearing things that no one else can, like voices or frightening sounds. They may hold bizarre beliefs that a healthy person can clearly tell are false. Their thoughts and feelings change as they experience these hallucinations, delusions, and delirium. Not knowing what’s real and what isn’t is a terrifying thing to live through, and affects not only the person in psychosis, but their loved ones as well. The things they are thinking and experiencing definitely feel real, and cause great distress for the individual, changing their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors in drastic ways.

Links Between Psychosis and Hearing Loss

How does hearing loss fit into this? Hearing loss has a lot of negative outcomes such as social isolation and depression. Add to this the changes in hearing, and you can see how someone with untreated hearing loss is primed to have a mental breakdown. The journal of Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews recently published an article from researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands showing this connection. They showed that hearing loss is associated with feelings of isolation and loneliness, and leads to lower cognitive function. With hearing loss, the brain isn’t functioning as it should be! These are major risk factors for psychosis.

Have you ever had an auditory hallucination? They’re common among those with hearing loss. Maybe you think you hear the phone ring, or imagine you hear your spouse call you from the next room, only to remember they left home half an hour ago. This can be an extremely uncomfortable feeling, and is just a taste of what someone in psychosis feels. For more on this study, visit here.

Make Smart Decisions for Your Health

On average, Americans wait 5 to 7 years after they start to notice hearing loss before they invest in hearing aids. They are worried about the cost, or don’t want the hassle of hearing aids. It’s not worth the risk! Living with untreated hearing loss is at best a struggle in communication and will leave you physically and emotionally drained. At worst, it can be the beginning of a frightening journey into mental health concerns like dementia, schizophrenia, and psychosis. Don’t gamble with your health! Visit us today at Gulf Gate Hearing to get tested and fitted for hearing aids.

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