When we talk to people about treating their hearing loss, we often hear reluctance based on the idea that “it doesn’t affect anyone but me”. Hearing loss is often viewed as a personal problem, but nothing could be further from the truth. Your hearing loss may be taking place in your ears, but it affects everyone around you and can have a deep impact on your most important relationships.
This is because of the way hearing loss disrupts communication. With hearing challenges present it becomes more difficult to engage in social activities -everything from catching up with friends to everyday conversations with a partner or family. Hearing loss can take a big toll on your quality of life, with these communication challenges at the core of the issues it provokes.
Hearing Loss and Your Closest Relationships
New studies are coming out detailing how untreated hearing loss can change your closest relationships. Research with couples where one person was living with untreated hearing loss illuminates the importance of everyday communication to a relationship. Even amongst supportive partners, there was a sense that their relationship had lost a spontaneous element, and the ability to share small thoughts or moments with each other.
Accommodating a partner’s hearing loss often means less communication overall, which can erode a sense of closeness and familiarity. Issues with hearing loss often change a relationship in negative ways, and lead to more misunderstandings, moodiness and hurt feelings in a couple. Hearing loss changes our social behavior patterns as well and can constrict social and leisure activities. Issues related to a partner’s hearing loss can build into significant frustrations with companionship.
Hearing Loss and Quality of Life
Hearing loss makes many changes to your quality of life when it is left untreated. Leaving hearing issues unaddressed especially makes you more vulnerable to depression, anxiety and isolation, all of which also carry a social component.
Many cases of depression find their source in feelings of misunderstanding – both not understanding others and not being understood by others. With untreated hearing loss, the communication difficulties can exacerbate depression and increase communication gaps between the person with hearing loss and their closest family and community members. Depression is a serious disease that can lead to a cascade of other health risks.
Communication and comprehension struggles can also greatly increase anxiety levels, especially in unfamiliar situations. Anxiety can curtail social interactions and activities, such as meeting with friends at a new restaurant or travelling to see family. Anxiety can also make you feel unduly dependent on a partner, friend or family member to help you navigate situations. Anxiety, especially with unfamiliar circumstances, can greatly restrict your overall mobility.
With the challenges hearing loss places upon interpersonal communication, there is a much greater risk of social isolation. When communication becomes undesirable or breaks down because of hearing loss, it can separate us from even our most important social contacts. If mobility is limited as well, social isolation is an especially common result. Social isolation is detrimental to mental health and cognitive performance. With hearing loss, social interactions can be de-incentivised, making it harder to value the relationships that keep us from being isolated.
Treating Hearing Loss
Treating hearing loss can make a big difference in how it affects your life- and those around you! While most types of hearing loss can’t be cured, effective treatment exists to help minimize and manage hearing impairment. For many people, treating hearing loss is best done with hearing aids, programmed and fitted by an audiologist or hearing specialist. Modern hearing aids are discreet and powerful devices that use digital sound processing to better amplify sound in the select frequencies where you need it.
Hearing loss responds best to early treatment, so when you are diagnosed with hearing loss it pays off to address the issue early. That said, treatment at any stage will still hold benefits. Treating hearing loss makes comprehension and communication easier, lowers cognitive stress and diminishes the health risks that accompany untreated hearing loss.
If you or a loved one has noticed changes in the way you hear, it is time to get a hearing exam. Understanding the true costs of untreated hearing loss will help you understand why addressing hearing loss is so important for yourself and those you love.