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Here's What Happens If Your Hearing Loss Goes Untreated

By Manjari Bansal
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on June 08, 2021
Left untreated, hearing loss could lead to depression or anxiety and impair your relationships. We spoke with experts for more details about the effects of untreated hearing loss.

The solution to hearing loss is not just increasing the volume of your TV or asking everyone to speak louder. Like vision loss, which you can address with a variety of devices and procedures, hearing loss is a medical condition that needs proper treatment. Untreated hearing loss can impact your physical health, mental well-being, as well as your professional and personal relationships. Read on for more about the possible effects of untreated hearing loss.  

Social Isolation and Depression

When you can’t understand what others are talking about, you may start avoiding conversations or social gatherings. This could lead to social isolation which, in turn, can cause loneliness and even depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“A survey by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that among 2300 adults aged 50 and older, those with untreated hearing loss were less likely to join in with social activities, and more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia as compared to those who wore hearing aids,” Jennifer Gilligan, AuD, audiologist & product manager at Eargo in New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Strained Interpersonal Relationships

According to the CDC, if you have hearing loss, you may frequently ask others to repeat themselves or speak loudly. Over time, this could cause frustration to both parties and create subsequent limits on both the duration and depth of your conversations. This can lead to problems in relationships—at both work and home.

“Someone with hearing loss will often miss softly-spoken or unexpected comments from a friend or spouse," Kevin Seitz-Paquette, AuD, director of the Phonak Audiology Research Center (PARC) at SonovaGroup, tells WebMD Connect to Care."Research has shown that, although innocent, these misunderstandings (or complete misses) on the part of the person with hearing loss can be misinterpreted as disinterest or lack of attention.”

Anxiety and Fatigue

“Individuals with hearing loss may experience anxiety related to missing important pieces of communication," Nicole Aaronson, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, tells WebMD Connect to Care. "They may also have anxiety related to safety.” These safety concerns can range from not being able to hear an ambulance siren to not noticing a fire alarm go off in your home. 

Aaronson also explains how worrisome it can be for parents who can’t hear their children. “For example, a parent with hearing loss might be anxious about not hearing the cry of a new baby. The extra effort involved in attempting to follow conversations can also lead to mental and muscular fatigue,” Aaronson says. 

Ringing in the Ears

With hearing loss, you may also experience tinnitus, orringing in the ears”. Tinnitus can disturb your sleep and concentration while also causing fatigue, according to the CDC.

“Phantom noises, such as ringing or buzzing in the ears, can occur with hearing loss. As hearing loss occurs, changes in the brain's auditory pathways can lead to the generation of these sounds, which can be very distressing to sufferers,” Aaronson says.

Hearing Loss Can Be Managed and Treated.

The consequences of untreated hearing loss don't have to be something you deal with all on your own. The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.