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We all put things off, regularly talking ourselves out of strenuous or uncomfortable chores in favor of something more enjoyable or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will sooner or later get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.

Often times, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might hope to clear out the basement, for instance, by throwing out or donating the items we seldom use. A clean basement sounds good, but the task of actually hauling things to the donation center is not so satisfying. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to notice innumerable alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so innocuous, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright hazardous. While no one’s idea of a good time is getting 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 recognizable comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what happens just after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle volume and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t frequently make use of 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 capability to process auditory information becomes weaker. Scientists even have a term for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”

Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off your leg but continued to not use the muscles, relying on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get progressively weaker. The same occurs with your brain; the longer you ignore your 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 triggers a host of different disorders recent research is continuing to reveal. For example, a study directed by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss suffer from a 40% decrease in cognitive function when compared to those with regular hearing, in conjunction with an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Generalized cognitive decline also can cause dangerous mental and social consequences. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that those with untreated hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to get involved in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

So what starts out as an aggravation—not being able to hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that affects all aspects of your health. The chain 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, wounded relationships, and an increased risk of developing serious medical ailments.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one last time. Once the cast comes off, you start exercising and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you regain your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you enhance the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recuperate 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, according to The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in virtually every aspect of their lives.

Are you ready to achieve the same improvement?