Hearing loss is an invisible disability that often goes undetected. Once people notice a decline in their hearing, most of us wait up to five years before seeking help. Many claim “selective hearing” is to blame for their inability to hear and follow conversations at home or work. Unfortunately, there are many adverse effects of untreated hearing loss. In this article, we will discuss the different emotional burdens caused by untreated hearing loss and ways to improve your hearing health.
Hearing loss does not only impact your ability to communicate but also on your social, emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing. Hearing loss becomes more prevalent with age. According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, over 70 percent of adults over the age of 70 have hearing loss. It is estimated that only a third of these hearing losses are managed with hearing aids or an assistive listening device.
Untreated or undiagnosed hearing loss in children can result in not only speech and language delay but behavioural, emotional and educational deficits. In Australia, three to six children in every thousand have some degree of hearing loss. This means a large number of Australians in our most vulnerable age groups are potentially deprived of enjoying life without this primary sense.
With an untreated hearing impairment, it can be challenging to participate in conversations. You may struggle with following directions, miss important pieces of information, such as phone numbers, or could mishear important instructions. In older people, this can lead others to believe they are confused, forgetful or worse – that they are developing dementia.
In young children, untreated hearing loss can lead to communication gaps due to the inability to express themselves. Children often understand the meaning of words just fine but become frustrated as they cannot speak and explain their needs properly. The reason for the delay in expressive language is that their hearing loss prevents the constant input of language for them to replicate.
The avoidance of social situations often begins with you missing words or parts of conversations. You may become selective with the social situations you attend. Perhaps, you become lost following conversations, can’t answer questions and become embarrassed you’ve responded inappropriately. All this makes you more likely to withdraw from social situations rather than letting people around you know about the problem.
The fact is, untreated hearing loss makes participation in social situations more difficult. Listening to conversations in situations where there is higher background noise can be challenging and you may be considered rude or selective in what you are choosing to hear. As a result, you may find yourself withdrawing from these situations.
You might avoid joining a group in the tearoom at lunchtime, attend family dinners at restaurants or skip drinks at the end of a round of golf. This can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. Children withdrawing from playing with friends or in large family groups can be an indication of an undiagnosed hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss generally occurs slowly over time. If you have a hearing loss, you might be unaware that your hearing is changing for quite a long time. The people around you may accuse you of having selective hearing or ignoring them by choice. This can impact relationships with family or loved ones.
In fact, a major problem with untreated hearing loss is the risk it poses for relationships, be it marriages or relationships with family members and friends. The most common complaints audiologists receive include: “I can’t hear my partner at home”, “my family thinks I’m ignoring them” or “my friends think I have selective hearing”.
With untreated hearing loss, it can be easy to get lost in a conversation. As the hearing loss becomes worse, family members may become frustrated with you. They may struggle to determine if there is a hearing issue or if you are choosing to ignore them. Oftentimes, individuals are encouraged by family members or loved ones to have their hearing health investigated further.
This can result in increased frustration on both sides. The family member becomes frustrated with the person with the hearing loss for refusing to do anything about it. The person with hearing loss becomes frustrated as they are often unaware the hearing loss exists.
Those with untreated hearing loss often grieve in silence about their inability to hear which requires more energy as they struggle to pay attention to follow conversations at home or in social settings. This is a very unhealthy emotional burden to carry, therefore it is better to get your hearing tested even if you suspect the slightest change in hearing.
Regular hearing tests can be done in as little as thirty minutes and will give you a fundamental understanding of where your hearing is at, and how it is changing over the years.
Hearing loss is often a disability people are not wanting to admit to themselves. Some feel shy or embarrassed to admit a hearing difficulty and would prefer people thinking they have selective hearing rather than an undiagnosed hearing loss. This may be caused by a reluctance to admit there is something wrong. It may also be refusing to admit they are ageing. According to the Better Hearing Institute, untreated hearing loss in working Australians has disastrous effects on productivity, performance, and career success.
Hearing loss can affect your ability to contribute to conversations, both in private or during meetings or on the telephone. As a result, your self-esteem takes a hit, and you may experience anxiety and depression. The problem can then build upon itself because social isolation often results in hearing loss going undetected, simply because there are no opportunities to determine how poor the hearing impairment is.
In children, untreated hearing loss can lead to difficulties listening in background noise. In noisy situations such as a classroom or a childcare centre, they can become overwhelmed with feelings of inability to cope. Parents and teachers believe they are being selective with their listening as they can often hear well in quiet situations.
Problems arise when the child can’t see the speaker’s face or if the speaker’s voice is masked by noise. This can lead to withdrawal from friends, inattention in the classroom and feelings of low self-worth. Children may then become anxious, their schoolwork suffers and they may refuse to attend school. Younger children can become frightened to attend child care or noisy situations such as play centres and there may be other behavioural outbursts.
Both children and adults can suffer from a variety of psychological effects related to untreated hearing loss, which can include frequent outbursts of anger, decreased self-confidence, rising frustration, embarrassment, fatigue, and depression. Many adults experience extended periods of deep sadness, and a form of grieving as hearing capacity continues to diminish. These and other symptoms of depression tend to contribute to other symptoms creating a vicious cycle, which is difficult to interrupt. The best thing we can do for ourselves or our loved ones is recognise there may be a deficit in hearing, not accuse anyone of being selective and arranging for a hearing assessment.
There is a range of solutions available that can help you hear the sounds of everyday life, including hearing aids, accessories and rehabilitation programs. Assistive listening devices can be tailored to your lifestyle and your hearing loss. Sometimes it is as simple as learning to utilise your remaining hearing to its full potential. If you are tired of the social isolation and strain yourself to hear without proper communication strategies, you will inevitably experience frustration and anger, and exacerbate the possibility of psychological problems associated with hearing loss.
It is therefore wise to put your hands up and seek help when hearing loss is adversely affecting your lifestyle emotionally, socially and mentally. Refrain from comparing your inability to hear to another who might be selectively hearing or someone who had a “negative” outcome. This is because every individual is unique in their ways and there are different options for different people.
If hearing loss is left untreated, there are many emotional impacts that eventually lead to poor mental health and poor social balance. To take charge of your hearing health, contact your nearest Attune Hearing clinic for a hearing check-up! Give us a call on 1300 736 702 or book your appointment online today!