Use It or Lose It: The Devastating Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

Your hearing is like vacation time: if you don’t use it, you lose it! Once any part of your ability to hear slips away, if it is left untreated then there is a chance it is gone forever. Audiologists call this process auditory deprivation.

“Consequently,” says Jennifer Bonner, an audiologist at Hearing Care of Summerville, “if you find you’re having trouble hearing, you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves when they talk, or you can’t understand what’s being said in a noisy room, it is important that you get your hearing checked by an audiologist.”

“I always tell my patients they should have a use it or lose it philosophy about their hearing,” says Jennifer Bonner of Hearing Care of Summerville. Because we hear with our brains more than our ears, the brain loses its ability to process auditory messages if it has not been stimulated over time. This process is called auditory deprivation, and it is irreversible. The auditory centers of the brain shut down and no longer respond to sound. This is the reason doctors advise patients to get their hearing checked as soon as they detect a hearing deficit or their friends and family complain about their hearing.

Hearing care is health care, just like eye care or dental care. Our bodies being intricately connected by multiple systems may see harmful effects in one system that may be caused by another. Hearing health is no different. If you experience hearing loss, there may be more side effects. But why leave your hearing loss untreated when you can join the millions of Americans that benefit from hearing care?

There is no shame in needing hearing care. According to the CDC, forty-eight million Americans, 60% of whom are still apart of the American workforce, suffer from some form of hearing loss. In fact, 14% of Americans from age 45 to 64 suffer from hearing loss. The shame is letting it go untreated. Failure to treat hearing loss will only increase the symptoms and may cause many other physical, social and mental health issues.

Hearing loss is attributable to many of the most common diseases plaguing the United States. Among those are Dementia and Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, Depression, and many more.

1. Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In 2011, a groundbreaking study performed at John’s Hopkins found a link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Scientists believe people who have difficulty hearing tune out, depriving their brain of stimulation. Parts of the brain atrophy, leading to brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. People who treated their hearing loss did not suffer higher rates of brain disease.

The study was no surprise to Jennifer Bonner. “I see patients with dementia in my practice every day,” she says. “It’s a shame that some of them could have been helped with hearing loss and the effects much earlier if they had only come in to get their hearing checked as soon as they started losing their hearing.”

2. Heart Disease

According to the CDC, Heart Disease is the most common illness in the United States today. But how are hearing loss and Heart Disease connected? Our ears may be canaries in the coal mine for our cardiovascular system. Studies have found that hearing loss and heart disease are linked by a common cause—reduced blood flow. The structures of the inner ear are sensitive to minute blood flow restrictions that can signal the beginning of heart disease. Anyone experiencing hearing loss should get that corrected and then see a cardiologist about their heart health.

3. Social Isolation and Depression

People who can’t hear get shut out of conversations and can withdraw. This social isolation often leads to depression and many subsequent issues like fatigue, sadness, inability to focus, loss of hope and even suicidal thoughts. Jennifer. Bonner says she has seen this often in her 22 years as an audiologist.

People with hearing loss may not have trouble communicating one-on-one, where they can compensate by reading lips, watching non-verbal expressions and moving in close. They may have more difficulty in larger groups where many people are speaking at once and at a greater distance from each other.

Hearing loss continues to carry a stigma, but Jennifer Bonner says new, more discreet hearing aids reduce that. “Some people think this is just another thing making them feel old and want to put it off,” she says. “But it is just as important a health issue as other things they may be facing.” She advises everyone to get their hearing checked after detecting any difficulty hearing. Your overall health may depend on it.


Although hearing loss over the age of 55 may be common, it is not normal. If you or someone you know is experiencing hearing loss, you can make an appointment with Jennifer Bonner and the staff at Hearing Care of Summerville by calling 843-871-9669. Prevent you and your family members from experiencing auditory deprivation and the other adverse health effects from untreated hearing loss because Life is Worth Hearing!