What are the emotional aspects of hearing loss? It’s a question that many ask rather late into their hearing journey. The link between their hearing loss and potential mental health issues is often the least worry of those recently diagnosed with a hearing impairment. Whilst the emotional and social impact of hearing loss is undeniable, it is all too often overlooked or neglected.
The emotional impact of your hearing loss will be different from that of others. Hearing loss can present itself at all ages and to differing degrees. It can pose a great challenge to your physical and mental well-being, especially if your hearing loss is left untreated for an extended period.
Hearing loss exists on a scale, so it’s important to have a hearing test to determine the degree, ranging from mild to profound, and type of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be gradual or sudden. It is all too often permanent, at times it might be temporary. One way or another, any degree and type of hearing loss need to be addressed to avoid further deterioration of the hearing.
Upon learning of their hearing impairment, many patients delay seeking treatment until they experience serious difficulties.
Hearing loss is considered a “harmless condition” and to cope, many adopt coping mechanisms such as asking people to repeat themselves, lip-reading and simply guessing what the person was trying to say.
Adults who have received the news of a permanent hearing loss may resist hearing aid fitting as they may not want to admit they have hearing loss. Some can experience shame and embarrassment.
Unfortunately, hearing loss still has negative associations, such as old age, incompetence, and cognitive and social impairment. A person with hearing loss may go through emotional stages similar to grief, from denial to anger, depression, and finally, acceptance.
When hearing loss is left untreated, it can have detrimental effects on the emotional and social wellbeing of individuals. Adults with undiagnosed hearing loss may be confused by their inability to communicate as well as they used to.
The reduced ability to hear and communicate with others often causes feelings of sadness, unworthiness, self-loathing and guilt, and lower self-esteem. Those with existing mental health concerns may find that hearing loss also exacerbates their mental health problems.
Untreated hearing loss in older persons is a widespread chronic condition, common in those over 65 years old. But noise-induced hearing loss also affects younger generations and is far more common than you may think.
It may cause a person to withdraw from social activities, be less confident at work, experience fear of the loss of income and increased feelings of isolation. The resulting loneliness is associated with rapidly declining mental health.
Some of the most common concerns experienced by those with untreated hearing loss are depression and anxiety. Research also suggests that untreated hearing loss may even increase the risk of suffering from dementia.
Hearing loss affects communication and social interactions and can impact your quality of life, and emotional wellbeing. The progression of the hearing loss is so gradual and most of us wouldn’t be able to detect the gradual deterioration of our hearing if it wasn’t for routine hearing tests provided by accredited, local audiologists.
Hearing loss can affect everyone in the family, not just the person with a hearing impairment.
One of the many impacts of hearing loss is the strain on the relationships between the individual with the hearing loss, and their family and friends.
A burden is placed not only on the individual with untreated hearing loss, but the ones they are trying to communicate and listen to. Some people may even blame themselves for misunderstanding and requiring more help. The family may notice a decrease in quality conversation, decrease in shared activities and experience frustration and resentment.
Individuals with untreated hearing loss will find that they often excuse themselves from social gatherings and events “not worth the effort” of having to concentrate and strain to hear others in conversations.
Family members may feel lonely, too and miss the relationship they shared with their loved one.
Commonly, family and friends experience increased frustration, anger and resentment towards individuals with untreated hearing loss.
Children are still developing their social skills and coping mechanisms. Hearing loss may cause a child to struggle to communicate, which can lower their self-esteem and reduce their ability for self-expression. Even a mild form of hearing loss can result in reduced classroom success. It can appear as if the child is uninterested, ‘not trying hard enough’ and has reduced academic abilities.
Children who have been diagnosed with a hearing loss, may undergo medical treatment or be fitted with a hearing aid. This can lead to the child feeling isolated and different from their peers.
Parents are encouraged to help their child build self-confidence and focus on personal strengths.
Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic health conditions in Australia. However, despite the detrimental impact of untreated hearing loss, it is often one of the most neglected chronic conditions and is frequently addressed long after the initial diagnosis.
Whilst hearing loss can’t be seen, the impact it has on your social interactions is real and can have a serious impact on your mental health. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There are a wealth of resources and advanced hearing solutions available to people with hearing loss. Hearing loss is manageable. Hearing aids, for example, can help you communicate with friends and family. Treatment can allow better hearing and ultimately improve your quality of life and emotional wellbeing.
Understanding the negative impact of untreated hearing loss on your mental health is the first step in taking a more proactive approach to addressing hearing loss. It is important to address hearing loss as soon as possible, to get onto your hearing health journey.