Hearing loss is a common problem that affects individuals of all ages. About 15 percent of adults 18 years old or over have reported some type of difficulty with hearing. Hearing loss is most common in older individuals, but children can also be affected by it, sometimes from birth.
Difficulty with hearing can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life and has even been found to contribute to mental health issues. The reasons for this become clear when you investigate how hearing loss affects daily life
Hearing Loss Can Be a Gradual Problem
Hearing loss can be very subtle in the early stages, and you may not realize you’re having difficulty with it at first. But gradually, you may begin to notice that conversations seem to sound muffled. You may miss high-pitched sounds such as the doorbell. Phone conversations may become increasingly difficult to understand. You may frequently ask people to repeat what they’ve said.
Others may complain about the volume of your television, radio, or phone. You may experience ringing in your ears or other troublesome noises. These are signs you may have a hearing problem that should be investigated.
Poor Hearing Can Affect Daily Life
Although individuals are often willing to dismiss minor hearing loss problems, hearing impairment can significantly affect their daily lives. They may be unable to perform well at work because of hearing loss. Opportunities for advancement or increasing one’s income can be reduced.
Social interactions can be more difficult, and relationships can suffer due to frustrations in communicating.
Hearing Loss Can Lead to Increasing Isolation
Being unable to hear conversations can lead individuals to isolate themselves because they may find it too difficult to understand others or because they fear that others will think that they’re unintelligent. They may choose to spend more time alone because it’s easier.
As people receive less input from others, self-isolating can lead to a number of negative effects. Humans are social animals, and when their interactions are limited, the effects can be significant.
Isolation Can Lead to Depression
Self-isolation due to hearing loss can begin to affect the individual’s emotional health. They may feel cut off from others because of their inability to communicate effectively. They may become depressed and begin to lose energy, develop health issues, and struggle with their self-esteem.
In some cases, depression itself can cause people to self-isolate, which can increase feelings of being cut off from everyday life. Understanding how hearing impairment can affect mental health is important for understanding the causes of mental health issues.
Lack of Auditory Stimulation Can Lead to Cognitive Decline
Some evidence indicates that hearing loss can have additional effects on the individual beyond social isolation and depression. Lack of auditory sensory input has been shown to affect the brain itself, which could result in cognitive decline.
Lack of stimulation from auditory sources, conversations, TV and streaming programs, movies, music, and other input can lead to the loss of brain connections that are critical to cognitive function. The exact connection between hearing loss and brain health is not currently understood, but data suggests that even mild impairment of hearing can have a negative effect.
Mental Health Issues from Hearing Loss Can Cause Individuals to Self-Medicate
Some individuals attempt to self-medicate mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and poor self-image, by consuming alcohol or drugs. But using such substances can create worsening problems relating to their health, relationships, jobs, and finances.
Drug and alcohol use can, in fact, produce additional mental health problems. Substance abuse treatment can help individuals better manage both their physical issues as well as any mental health conditions.
Managing Separate Issues Is Critical to Helping People Deal with Hearing Loss
Individuals who are exhibiting signs of hearing loss along with other issues should be carefully evaluated by an audiologist to determine the extent of their problems. After such assessments, they may receive customized hearing devices.
These tools and other forms of assistance may help them with socialization and address their mental health issues. If necessary, treatment for substance abuse problems can also help people interact with others and lead more fulfilling lives.
nidcd.nih.gov – Quick Statistics About Hearing
cdc.gov – How Do I Know if I Have Hearing Loss Caused by Loud Noise?
betterhealth.vic.gov.au – Hearing Loss – How it Affects People
health.harvard.edu – Hearing Loss May Affect Brain Health
pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Moderate Effects of Hearing Loss on Mental Health and Subjective Well-being: Results from the Nord-Trøndelag Hearing Loss Study
publichealth.tulane.edu – Understanding the Effects of Social Isolation on Mental Health
pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Dual Sensory Impairment and Cognitive Decline: The Results From the Shelter Study
nimh.nih.gov – Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders
pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Examining the Combined Estimated Effects of Hearing Loss and Depressive Symptoms on Risk of Cognitive Decline and Incident Dementia
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Holistic Addiction Treatment in Huntington Beach, CA