Hearing loss is the third most common health condition in the United States. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.”

Hearing loss is much more than just the ears. Those with hearing loss report greater incidents of depression, isolation, and anxiety. They also report more hospitalizations, poorer physical health, and are at an increased risk for cognitive function decline.

We hear with our brain, in particular, the auditory cortex. With hearing loss, the brain is receiving a reduction in stimuli from the ear. When this process goes unused, your brain “forgets” how to process sounds. Similar to an “if you don’t use it you lose it” scenario. Studies have shown an independent association between untreated hearing loss and the increased risk of dementia.

Given all that we know about hearing and the brain, researchers believe it is best for overall health and well-being to treat hearing loss as soon as possible.