We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of difficult or uncomfortable tasks in favor of something more pleasing or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will at some point get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.

Usually, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might desire to clean out the basement, for example, by tossing or donating the items we never use. A clean basement sounds great, but the work of actually lugging things to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to notice myriad alternatives that would be more enjoyable—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so harmless, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright dangerous. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, recent research shows that neglected hearing loss has serious physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you need to begin with the impact of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a well-known comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what happens after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle size and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t routinely make use of your muscles, they get weaker.

The same takes place with your brain. If you under-utilize the part of your brain that processes sound, your capacity to process auditory information grows weaker. Scientists even have a label 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, relying on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get steadily weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the a smaller amount of sound stimulation your brain gets, and the more impaired your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which creates a variety of different health issues the latest research is continuing to identify. For instance, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University reported that those with hearing loss encounter a 40% decrease in cognitive function in comparison to those with regular hearing, as well as an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Generalized cognitive decline also leads to substantial mental and social effects. A major 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 starts out as an aggravation—not being able to 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 creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, wounded relationships, and an enhanced risk of developing major 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 begin exercising and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you recoup your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again applies to hearing. If you heighten the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recuperate your brain’s ability to process and comprehend sound. This leads to better communication, improved 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 experience the same improvement?