Your hearing plays a major role in everything you do: your job, your personal life, and even your physical health and safety. Many people assume that some hearing loss isn’t a problem, or that they can simply “get by” with asking people to repeat themselves or being unable to hear in daily situations.Unfortunately, many of these same people experience a number of issues as a direct result of their hearing loss, and suffer for months, years, or even decades before getting treatment.
Social Consequences of Hearing Loss
Our interactions with other people play a big role in our quality of life and well-being. Studies have shown the effects of hearing loss can lead to negative social consequences, including:
- Avoidance or Withdrawal from Social Situations
Hearing loss makes it difficult to hear people talking. The person affected may feel embarrassed because they can’t follow the conversation or have to keep asking others to repeat themselves or talk louder. Rather than deal with the frustration of not hearing well in these social settings, the person may start to avoid situations that lead to frustration and embarrassment.
- Social Rejection and Loneliness
It’s a sad fact that people who don’t understand the effects of hearing loss may avoid or reject people who struggle with this common problem. They may become annoyed with requests to talk slowly or loudly, or just give up on trying to talk with the person altogether. This results in the affected person becoming socially isolated and lonely when they truly need support and compassion from those around them.
Psychological Consequences of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is linked to the following mental and psychological difficulties:
- Stress. Chronic high stress levels have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Being unable to hear increases stress levels for many people.
- Depression. Depression is a serious, yet common, mental illness that can lead to a loss of interest in life, lack of happiness or joy, feeling hopeless, lack of energy, poor quality sleep, and changes in appetite and weight.
- Diminished psychological and overall health. The mind and body have a powerful connection. When a person’s psychological health suffers, their overall enjoyment of life can diminish, and daily tasks may become challenging or seemingly impossible.
Physical Consequences of Hearing Loss
Without our hearing, we may miss important warnings and alerts that enable us to protect ourselves and our families. The effects of hearing loss are correlated with:
- Reduced Alertness and Increased Risk to Personal Safety
Not being able to hear smoke alarms, severe weather alerts, or a vehicle approaching can lead to serious safety issues for the person affected and those around them. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, suggests older adults who wear hearing aids may make fewer visits to the hospital. Researchers examined data from more than 1,300 adults aged 65 to 85 with severe hearing loss, and found that only 45 percent of them used a hearing aid.
- Reduced Job Performance and Earning Power
If an employer doesn’t understand why you can’t follow a conversation or you appear to struggle with listening or following instructions, this can negatively impact your career and financial earnings. A national study from the Better Hearing Institute found that people with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss.
- Negative Long-Term Effects on Brain Function and Memory
Studies have shown a strong link between hearing loss and a decline in cognitive abilities. Trouble remembering important details and the inability to concentrate can further lead to isolation and a general deterioration of well-being. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found that older adults who used a hearing aid performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who did not use a hearing aid, despite having poorer hearing. The study was published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Is Your Life Suffering because of Hearing Loss?
Here are some clues that you may have a hearing loss:
- You have problems hearing certain high frequencies, such as the high-pitched soft speech sounds of “t,” “f,” and “s”
- You have difficulty following conversations in noisy environments, like restaurants or crowded rooms
- You feel people mumble or fail to speak clearly
- You have problems hearing the television or radio, and others tell you the volume is too loud.
- You have ringing in your ears
- Your difficulty hearing interferes with your family, work or social life