We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of strenuous or uncomfortable chores in favor of something more pleasurable 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.

Usually, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might wish to clean out the basement, for example, by tossing or donating the things we rarely use. A clean basement sounds good, but the activity of actually hauling items to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to find countless alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.

In other cases, procrastination is not so innocent, and when it pertains to hearing loss, it could be downright dangerous. While no one’s idea of a good time is getting a hearing exam, recent research suggests that neglected hearing loss has severe physical, mental, and social consequences.

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

The same thing takes place with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sound, your capability to process auditory information gets weaker. Researchers even have a term for this: they call it “auditory deprivation.”

Returning to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but persisted 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 increasingly weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you ignore your hearing loss, the less sound stimulation your brain gets, and the worse your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which leads to a host of different complications present-day research is continuing to unearth. For instance, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University discovered that those with hearing loss experience a 40% decline in cognitive function compared to those with normal hearing, in conjunction with an enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Generalized cognitive decline also triggers significant mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that those with neglected 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 begins as an aggravation—not being able to hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that affects all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which leads to general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, wounded relationships, and an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is equally encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg example one last time. Right after the cast comes off, you begin working out and stimulating the muscles, and after some time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you increase the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can restore your brain’s ability to process and comprehend 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 achieve the same improvement?