We all put things off, routinely talking ourselves out of stressful or unpleasant tasks in favor of something more enjoyable or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will sooner or later get around to whatever we’re currently trying to avoid.

Sometimes, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might desire to clear out the basement, for instance, by throwing out or donating the things we never use. A clean basement sounds good, but the task of actually hauling things to the donation center is not so satisfying. In the interest of short-term pleasure, it’s very easy to notice myriad alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.

Other times, procrastination is not so benign, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing test, current research shows that neglected hearing loss has major 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 popular comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what will happen 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 occurs with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sounds, your capacity to process auditory information becomes weaker. Researchers 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 continued to not use the muscles, relying 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 go with 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 host of other ailments present research is continuing to uncover. For instance, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss encounter a 40% decrease in cognitive function in comparison to those with regular hearing, in combination with an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

General cognitive decline also results in severe mental and social consequences. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) discovered that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to partake in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

So what begins as an annoyance—not having the ability to hear people clearly—leads to a downward spiral that affects all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss leads to auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which leads to psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately 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 last time. Immediately after the cast comes off, you begin exercising and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again applies to hearing. If you enhance the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recover 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, according to The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in nearly every area of their lives.

Are you ready to achieve the same improvement?