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We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of stressful or uncomfortable activities in favor of something more enjoyable or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will at some point get around to whatever we’re presently working to avoid.

Sometimes, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might plan to clear out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the things we rarely use. A clean basement sounds good, but the process of actually lugging items to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to find innumerable alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.

In other cases, procrastination is not so harmless, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright hazardous. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, current research shows that untreated hearing loss has major physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you need to start with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a well-known analogy: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you understand what will happen after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle volume and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t repeatedly utilize your muscles, they get weaker.

The same thing happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sounds, your ability to process auditory information becomes weaker. Researchers even have a label for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”

Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but continued to not make use of the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get progressively weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the a smaller amount of sound stimulation your brain gets, and the worse your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which produces a variety of other consequences recent research is continuing to identify. For instance, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss suffer from a 40% drop in cognitive function compared to those with regular hearing, in combination with an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

General cognitive decline also can cause significant mental and social consequences. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) established that those with untreated hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to take part in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.

So what starts out as an inconvenience—not having the ability to hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that disturbs all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which leads to general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an enhanced risk of developing serious medical issues.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is just as encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one more time. Immediately after the cast comes off, you start exercising and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again applies to hearing. If you enhance the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can regain your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, better psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, as reported by The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in almost every area of their lives.

Are you ready to accomplish the same improvement?