Negative consequences of uncorrected hearing loss--a review

Int J Audiol. 2003 Jul;42 Suppl 2:2S17-20.


Hearing loss gives rise to a number of disabilities. Problems in recognizing speech, especially in difficult environments, give rise to the largest number of complaints. Other kinds of disabilities may concern the reduced ability to detect, identify and localize sounds quickly and reliably. Such sounds may be warning or alarm signals, as well as music and birds singing. The communicative disability affects both hearing-impaired people and other people in their environment--family members, fellow workers, etc. Hearing-impaired people are not always aware of all the consequences of the impairment; they do not always know what they are missing. Several studies have shown that uncorrected hearing loss gives rise to poorer quality of life, related to isolation, reduced social activity, and a feeling of being excluded, leading to an increased prevalence of symptoms of depression. These findings indicate the importance of early identification of hearing loss and offers of rehabilitative support, where the fitting of hearing aids is usually an important component. Several studies also point to a significant correlation between hearing loss and loss of cognitive functions. Most of these studies show such a correlation without being able to show whether the hearing loss caused the reduction in cognitive performance or if both the hearing loss and the cognitive decline are parts of a common, general age-related degeneration. A couple of these studies, however, indicate that the uncorrected hearing loss may be the cause of cognitive decline. Whichever alternative is true, the correlation should be seen as a clear indication for early hearing aid fitting for those needing it. Monaural hearing aid fitting in subjects with bilateral hearing loss may give rise to a reduced ability to recognize speech presented to the unaided ear, the so-called late-onset auditory deprivation effect. This functional decline is reversible in some but not all subjects after fitting of a hearing aid also on the previously unaided ear.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition
  • Communication Disorders / etiology*
  • Correction of Hearing Impairment
  • Depression / etiology
  • Hearing Aids
  • Hearing Loss / complications*
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology
  • Hearing Loss / psychology*
  • Hearing Loss / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sensory Deprivation
  • Social Isolation
  • Speech Perception