Impacts of Untreated Hearing Loss
Speech and Language Development
It is well-recognized that the relationship between hearing and speech development is critical in the early years of a child’s life. Children learn to use language by listening to the speaking habits of others. Infant hearing loss is therefore detrimental to a child’s early development. If a child can’t properly hear how a word is spoken, they will find it difficult to reproduce the correct sound. This, in turn, impacts on the ability to communicate with family, other children, and teachers.
In children, an untreated hearing loss will act as a communication barrier, meaning they are less able to make friends or join in with group activities and may feel lonely and isolated. This can delay the development of their social skills, affect their self-esteem and behaviour. Adults who develop a hearing problem tend to get frustrated, irritable, embarrassed and avoiding social situations, leading to loneliness and depression.
There’s also a growing body of evidence that has confirmed a connection between hearing loss and increased risk of dementia in older people - raises the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively could help stave off cognitive decline and dementia. The benefits of correcting hearing loss on cognition are twice as large as the benefits from any cognitive-enhancing drugs now on the market. It should be the first thing we focus on.
People with a mild hearing loss (25 decibels) are 3 times more likely to experience falls in old age, with every additional 10 decibels raising the risk by nearly 1.5 times. This is partly because people who can’t hear well might not have good awareness of their overall environment, making tripping and falling more likely. Another reason is because the strain of dealing with the effects of hearing loss on the brain reduces its resources for dealing with balance and safety.