It’s no surprise that our hearing abilities change as we age. What you might not consider, however, are the other challenges and changes that your hearing can affect. Especially in older adults, hearing loss can mean lower self-esteem, anger, denial, depression, anxiety, isolation, fatigue, and withdrawal from social situations.
We don’t often talk about the alterations that develop from noise-induced or age-induced hearing loss, but they can be just as painful as the loss of hearing itself. Let’s look at the side effects and emotional responses that can accompany hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Emotional Well-Being
Hearing loss can cause drastic changes in your daily life, making it difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle. As one of our five senses, the ability to hear is an integral part of our identity, from how we communicate to the music we enjoy.
It’s common for those experiencing hearing loss to have feelings of anger and even denial about the severity of their hearing loss. “Many hard of hearing people battle silently with their invisible hearing difficulties, straining to stay connected to the world around them, reluctant to seek help,” says psychology professor David Myers, Ph.D. Hearing loss can also lead to sadness and depression, which, in turn, can lead to further social isolation and withdrawal.
Additionally, those with hearing loss experience higher levels of fatigue and mental exhaustion. When the sensory hair cells of the inner ear are damaged or dead, the brain must work harder to translate their signals. Asking people to repeat themselves can make those with hearing loss feel exposed, embarrassed, and isolated. For many, these issues result in listening fatigue.
Those with untreated hearing loss can also suffer from auditory deprivation. Your brain translates signals from hair cells into sounds; when there are fewer or no signals for your brain to translate, it will lose its ability to do so. When this happens, the auditory processing part of your brain can “reassign” itself to a new task or even shrink and atrophy. Untreated hearing loss is, quite literally, bad for your brain.
Managing the Emotional Toll of Hearing Loss
To combat the emotional and mental effects of hearing loss, keep these tips in mind:
Get your hearing loss diagnosed and treated early. The earlier symptoms of hearing loss are addressed, the better chance you have of avoiding irreversible damage and emotional distress. A National Council of Aging study surveyed over 2,000 people with hearing loss and found that those who did not wear hearing aids were 50% more likely to experience depression or sadness. The study also found hearing aid users were more likely to engage in social activities.
Keep an eye out for the early signs of hearing loss:
- Muffled speech or sounds
- Difficulty understanding conversations, especially against background noise
- Watching lips rather than making eye contact
- Raising the volume on radio, TV, or music
- A “clogged” feeling in your ears
- Exhaustion after social situations
- Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
- Feeling that you can hear but not understand
Maintain a solid support network. Lean on friends and family for assistance as you adjust to a new lifestyle. You can also look into local support groups or online forums, where you can get tips and advice from others dealing with hearing loss. Your audiologist team can also be part of your support network as they help you adjust to hearing aids.
Visuals are important. Hearing loss is easier to manage with fewer obstacles and distractions. Maintain good lighting and reduce background noise to ease communication difficulties.
Know your treatment options, but be realistic. Hearing aids are not instant solutions to hearing loss. Just as your hearing loss happened over time, you’ll need time to adjust and learn to filter sounds. Be consistent with follow-up appointments at your audiologist—they’re a critical part of ensuring your hearing aids are properly adjusted.
At Amdahl Hearing, we are with you every step of the way on your journey. Through proper care, lifestyle adjustments, and the latest hearing aid technology, we want work with you as you regain control over your life. Call us today to schedule an appointment!