Hearing loss is usually a gradual process and many people may not realize that they are suffering from an affliction in the initial stages. They may also attribute it to a temporary cause or some other illness. It is important to raise awareness about the symptoms and the consequences of untreated hearing loss so that people know when to opt for a hearing diagnosis. Some of the symptoms of hearing loss to look out for are muffled speech, inability to understand words, difficulty in hearing consonants, making others speak slowly, clearly or loudly, turning up the TV or radio volume, not participating in conversations and even avoiding social gatherings all together.
Consequences of untreated hearing loss
In general, if hearing loss is left untreated the decline in your hearing and the ability to understand speech can happen sooner than if you were using a hearing aid. The consequences of untreated hearing loss can be summed up in the Use it or Lose it principle.
As with any other nerves in our body and brain, a lack of use and stimulation of these nerve connections can lead to them deteriorating and eventually losing function. So when you are not using a hearing aid and suffer from hearing loss, there are certain sounds you cannot hear and the auditory nerves that facilitate this can stop working. Unfortunately, once the nerves are affected, there is no way to reverse it.
Other consequences of untreated hearing loss can include a risk of cognitive decline, accidental slips and falls, memory problems and lower productivity.
Impact of hearing aids when hearing loss is treated at the right time:
While hearing aids significantly improve hearing, they also serve another purpose as mentioned earlier – to stimulate the auditory nerves and ensure their proper functioning. Hearing aids make it possible to hear sounds, parts of speech and consonants that you would otherwise not be able to. This keeps the auditory nerves stimulated, therefore slowing down or completely stalling the deterioration of these nerves.
This answers the question as to why people often wonder if they need to opt for a hearing aid when it does not reverse or prevent hearing loss, and if they are managing well without an aid. Some patients may even feel embarrassed to display their hearing aid, while others may get an aid, but wear it only occasionally.
Studies show that with use of hearing aids, cognitive decline can be mitigated in later life, stemming the rising tide of dementia. Episodic memory performance was also seen to improve with the regular use of the hearing aids. All in all, it is seen that using hearing aids contribute to an overall better quality of life, mental health and relationships.