Anxiety Associated with Hearing Loss
Feeling anxious is something that most of us can relate to. In fact, one in seven Australians suffer from anxiety. It is a normal response to a stressful situation, whether it’s public speaking or meeting new people.
Feeling anxious in itself is not a problem. However, when the anxiety persists for weeks or months, when there appears to be no triggering sensor, and when it interferes with your ability to function normally in your daily life, it is wise to seek information and support.
So, what does anxiety have to do with hearing loss? A lot of our Audiologists at Attune treat patients who suffer from hearing loss and anxiety. In this article, we’ll discuss the connection between hearing loss and anxiety and how you can manage it.
Hearing Loss & Anxiety
There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, an association between mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and hearing loss. It is not a well-researched area, however, it is a combination often seen by our Audiologists, and we are ready to help you manage it.
A diagnosis of hearing loss itself can be a stressful event, occasionally impacting self-esteem and often causing anxiety about the cause of the hearing loss, and how the possibility of wearing hearing aids will be perceived by others.
Additionally, for someone with a hearing loss, many everyday situations become potentially stressful, anxiety-producing events. Imagine going out for a meal with a group of friends. You know that the acoustics of the restaurant are likely going to be poor and you know that there’s a high chance you’ll struggle to hear the conversation. Before you even arrive, you are feeling worried about the evening ahead.
You may arrive at the restaurant and find that many of your concerns are justified. You don’t want to attract attention to your hearing loss, so you sit in a seating arrangement that is not acoustically ideal. You concentrate on the person speaking to you, but you are then unable to keep up with other conversations around the table. You then feel a bit embarrassed and sit back feeling isolated, dejected, and exhausted.
As a result of the stress and anxiety invoked by many social situations, people tend to isolate themselves further by avoiding social situations that now trigger their anxiety because of their inability to keep up with conversations.
At home, you may feel that you are not receiving the support you would like in response to your struggle. For example, being told that the TV is already loud when you ask the volume to be turned up can make you feel even more anxious about your hearing loss. Often hearing loss creates challenges within close relationships and can turn the home into yet another environment fraught with anxiety.
Do I Have Anxiety?
When placed in a stressful situation, the body initiates an appropriate physical response preparing your body for fight or flight. Sometimes, as found with people with anxiety disorders, the responses are not appropriate, occurring in a way that is disproportionate to the threat or without a clear trigger at all.
While everyone’s reaction to stress is different, here are the common symptoms of anxiety:
- Feeling nervous, restless, or panicked.
- Feeling constantly and disproportionately worried by numerous factors.
- Having difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly.
- Feeling indecisive and uncertain.
- Having a sense of impending panic or disaster.
- Feeling a strong urge to avoid the anxiety trigger.
There are also physical symptoms, which include:
- Feeling tired or weak.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Trembling or muscle twitches.
- Chest tightness.
- Shortness of breath.
How to Manage Anxiety Associated with Hearing Loss
If anxiety is being experienced regularly and intensely, and is impacting negativity on the quality of life, it needs to be investigated and treated appropriately. In the case of hearing loss, the initial step is to see an Audiologist for a comprehensive hearing assessment.
When a hearing loss is explained, it can be understood, and this in itself often reduces anxiety. An Audiologist can explain the hearing loss in terms of the degree and nature of the loss. They can explain which sounds are being affected and how this relates to the specific communication difficulties being experienced.
An Audiologist can fit a hearing aid and/or assistive listening device when appropriate and can provide information and counselling to the patient and family to improve their understanding of why the patient is having trouble.
They can also help to establish realistic expectations about what can be improved and how. An important goal is to continue social interaction and limit any factors leading to isolation. An Audiologist can provide communication strategies to both the individual and close relationships to use in various situations. The discomfort when faced with a noisy environment or an unfamiliar speaker is reduced, and the situation seems less daunting when armed with strategies to use.
What You Can Do
Stress and anxiety can grow into a serious and limiting condition. However, if the trigger (hearing loss and its accompanying challenges) is made more manageable, it may become easier to maintain a positive outlook and to better manage other stressful situations.
By addressing a hearing loss trigger, using relaxation techniques, staying active, as well as speaking to your local GP and Attune Audiologist, you can look after both your mental health and wellbeing.
If you think your anxiety is related to your hearing loss, book an appointment to see one of our qualified Audiologists to see how we can help you manage your hearing loss-induced anxiety. We’re always happy to help our patients.