Your ability to hear is not the only thing that is affected by hearing loss. The consequences of losing your hearing can impact various areas of your life, leading to serious health problems. However, many focus on the physical inability to hear, and forget about how hearing loss can impact your mental health.
Hearing is one of the critical senses, so it’s no surprise that your mental health can be impacted if you are struggling with the ability to communicate with family, friends, and co-workers. Hearing loss can prevent you from practicing active listening and make it harder for you to keep up with conversations among several people, which can lead to mental health complications such as isolation, depression, and anxiety.
Why Hearing Loss Is Important
Hearing loss can have a serious impact on your functioning both at home and in the workplace. It can often make it harder for you to handle a range of daily activities such as communicating with cashiers at the grocery store or asking questions at the bank. When you are more often misunderstanding what people say, conflicts can be more likely. Or you might be embarrassed when you are frequently asking people to repeat themselves.
Many people with hearing loss try to cover for themselves, for example, by pretending they weren’t paying attention or were simply tired. When you’re not quite catching what people are saying, it can become difficult to confidently ask questions. This could even be risky, for example, if you’re picking up new medication from the pharmacy and they are explaining how to take it. Along with this, hearing loss can cause anxiety as it can prevent you from hearing major warnings such as your home’s smoke alarm.
What is Hearing Loss Caused By?
Most commonly, hearing loss is caused by the aging process. Damage to the ear, such as noise damage, and genetic history can also be the main causes. There are also several health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary heart disease which can lead to hearing impairments. Any physical damage to the ear can also damage your hearing, such as infections or rupturing.
How Common is Hearing Loss?
Sadly, hearing loss can be quite a common issue in adults. Our ears are often subjected to damaging noises from our workplaces, traffic, airplanes, and more which can impair hearing over time. It’s been proven time and time again that being exposed to loud noises at high levels for prolonged periods of time can damage our hearing. Even enjoyable things like going to concerts or listening to music through headphones at loud volumes can cause lasting hearing damage when done often enough.
How Hearing Loss Impacts Your Life
Losing your hearing can have a huge impact on your quality of life. It affects the parts of the brain that process sound, such as the temporal lobe. Along with this, research has increasingly suggested that hearing loss is also able to have a negative impact on your mental health and well-being. Some of the main ways that hearing loss might impact your mental health include:
1. Miscommunications and Misunderstandings
Sometimes, older people might be perceived as being disagreeable or uncooperative, when in actual fact, they are losing their hearing and struggling to pick up on what is happening around them. They might not hear something and believe that they haven’t been told. Some people with hearing loss do not realize how much of a problem it is causing for them and might be in denial about the situation. Since hearing loss often occurs gradually rather than suddenly, it’s not always obvious.
2. Fatigue and Irritation
When hearing loss is impacting your ability to hear well, it’s not uncommon to become frustrated and irritated, as well as fatigued. When you are struggling to hear and keep up with a conversation, you might find yourself straining and becoming exhausted when trying to make sense of or keep track of situations. Known as listening fatigue, this situation can significantly impact your mental health in a negative way, leading you to become more depressed, stressed, anxious and frustrated than usual. Along with this, the physical and mental fatigue you suffer as a result of struggling to hear can impact other areas of your life, leaving you with little to no energy to do other things. Hearing aids can help – visit phonak.com/us/en/find-a-hearing-care-specialist.html to find a specialist.
Hearing loss can be very psychologically distressing, especially when you start to find that the world around you has become more confusing or is muted. Because of this, there is a huge risk of depression in people who are suffering with hearing loss, especially when it is compounded by chronic physical health issues. This combination can easily leave you feeling like you have very little quality of life and are unable to do the things that you enjoy, which is a massive risk factor for depression.
4. Loneliness and Social Isolation
Over time, hearing loss can start to lead to withdrawing socially, especially in older adults. Many people who are struggling to hear would rather withdraw from social situations rather than face the struggle of trying to communicate and figure out what is being said. Studies have found that hearing loss is associated with a higher risk of social isolation and loneliness, and women are at a higher risk than men. This is a very serious issue, especially as isolation and loneliness are associated with various serious health conditions and an increased mortality risk.
The good news is that hearing loss does not have to get to a point where it is impacting your mental health and well-being in a very negative way, especially with the range of treatments that are available today. Some of the most common treatment options for hearing loss include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and audiologic rehabilitation, where people learn how to read lips or use their hearing devices.
Hearing loss isn’t just a physical condition that makes it difficult to hear sounds. It can also have a huge effect on mental health and well-being.
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