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Do you ever wonder what your hearing loss will cost you? It’s easy to think a decline in hearing is normal as a person grows older, so why not just ignore it? There is probably no reason to worry about it, right? That’s all assuming you even know you have hearing loss in the first place.

It’s common to think that a little hearing loss won’t hurt. Researchers are just now starting to understand the problems that can come with hearing decline, especially how it might affect the brain. New technology is opening up some surprising data, too. Okay, how big of a problem is that lack of hearing? Here are seven hidden risks that come with it if you choose to ignore the problem.

#1. What are You Missing?

Let’s begin with a basic concern. What are you are not hearing these days? Did your grandchild just say he loves you? How many of those have you missed? How does that make him feel when you don’t hear him say it?

Lack of hearing can isolate you in a way that you might not understand. Everyone likes a little privacy now and then, but there is a difference between isolation and wanting some alone time. You are missing out on hearing the birds sing in the morning. You don’t hear the rainfall or the wind whistle.

Missing out on key sounds is something that affects your life at every level. It interferes with your ability to socialize, to maintain friendships and perform well in your job. It also makes that precious little granddaughter feel ignored when she says she loves you.

#2 Social Decline

Chances are your hearing loss is more noticeable that you want to believe, too. Struggling to hear and that need to focus on what is being said during casual conversation can cause you to withdraw from social situations. Hearing loss destroys self-confidence and that takes a toll. If you find yourself waving off invitations, take a minute and evaluate your reasoning. Do you really need to stay home and do the laundry or is there something else going on?

#3 Mental Decline

Just recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered that even mild hearing loss can increase a person’s risk of dementia. In a study conducted by Frank Lin, M.D., PhD., researchers followed 639 people for 12 years. Those with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to experience dementia and with moderate hearing loss, the risk tripled. The study participants with severe impairment left untreated increased their risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease by five.

The study also showed that hearing loss accelerates the decline. The volunteers that developed age-related hearing loss over the 12 years of the study showed signs of mental decline up to 40 percent faster than the recipients with normal hearing.

#4 Fatigue

The brain is responsible for taking the sound that enters the ears and translating it into something you can understand. When you can’t quite make out every word, it will attempt to fill the void and that takes energy. That constant need to compensate for your hearing loss is one of the reasons for the increased risk of dementia. It can also leave you feeling mentally exhausted after a meeting or night out with friends.

#5 Poor Work Performance

Your hearing is one of your most important assets when it comes to working. When that asset is compromised, though, it can affect your ability to earn. A 2007 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute found hearing loss had a financial impact. They surveyed 40,000 households to discover that individuals with some hearing loss made up to 12,000 dollars less annually. The culprit is poor communication skills that lead to declined productivity and work-related errors.

#6 Safety

There is an obvious safety issue with the untreated hearing loss both in and outside the home. If you can’t hear that car coming towards you, what’s to keep you from stepping off the curb? How about something closer to home like hearing a family member cry for help or the fire alarm go off in the middle of the night.

#7 Depression

All the other risks combined will impact you on a mental level, according to the National Council on the Aging. They found a correlation between untreated hearing loss and depression in seniors. Hearing loss is common as a person ages. In this country, it affects more than nine million people over the age of 65. Of those that don’t get hearing aids, around 30 people report some level depression.

You don’t have to live with hearing loss. It’s a choice for most people and one that does come with significant hidden risks.