We all put things off, routinely talking ourselves out of stressful or unpleasant activities in favor of something more pleasant or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will eventually get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.

Sometimes, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might want to clean out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the things we seldom use. A clean basement sounds great, but the work of actually lugging items to the donation center is not so pleasant. In the concern of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to find myriad 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 examination, the latest research shows that untreated hearing loss has severe physical, mental, and social consequences.

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

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

Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you took the cast off 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 progressively weaker. The same happens 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 variety of additional problems present-day research is continuing to unearth. For example, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University showed that those with hearing loss encounter a 40% decline in cognitive function compared to those with normal hearing, together with an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Generalized cognitive decline also produces substantial mental and social consequences. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) discovered that those with neglected hearing loss were 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 begins as an aggravation—not having the capability hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that disturbs all aspects of your health. The chain 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 elevated risk of developing serious medical conditions.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is just as encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one more time. Immediately after the cast comes off, you start working out and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you heighten the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can restore your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, improved 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 accomplish the same improvement?