Hearing loss is known as an invisible disability, not only affecting listening and communication but impacting relationships, emotional health and quality of life. Hearing loss can often begin slowly so many don’t realize it’s impact, subtly making it harder to understand and follow casual and important conversations, hearing warning signs and getting around. A recent study for Finland went the extra mile to identify some of the major impacts of hearing loss that affect people’s mobility, sense of independence, self-esteem and quality of life.
A Study in “Life Space”
The study, funded by the Academy of Finland examined over 800 participants of all genders between the ages of 75 and 90, mapping their “life space”. The study defined “life space as the boundaries of where a person travels in everyday life. The ability of those with compromised hearing was compared to those with healthy hearing to find out how exactly “life space” was affected.
The study considered several factors to determine what comprises an individual’s “life space”, including where people move in their day-to-day life, as well as the frequency in which they travel, and if they require assistance to travel where they go.
Hearing Loss and Decreased “Life Space”
The findings of the study revealed that participants who had hearing loss were twice as likely as those without a hearing disability to limit their movements to a small, familiar radius close to their home. While it is not essential to travel far to attain happiness and become fulfilled the researchers suspected that a smaller “life space” could be attributed to a lower quality of life.
This was especially true for study participants who may have enjoyed a larger “life space” earlier in life before hearing loss set in. A larger “life space also denotes a greater sense of mobility, higher confidence and a more dynamic and rich social life. Hearing loss is understood to greatly affect an individual’s likeliness to stay social, as communication becomes more of a challenge.
Hearing Loss and Social Spaces
While hearing loss is an issue with the ears it is actually a communication issue, making it difficult for loved one’s to casually converse and to hear and follow directions at work. As relationships become eroded due to communication breakdowns it is likely that self-esteem and sense of independence become affected.
One major side effect of hearing loss is a struggle to hear in crowded social situations, where multiple sounds occur and people are speaking at the same time. For someone with untreated hearing loss, big crowds cannot only be frustrating, but exhausting. Because of this added stress, many people who struggle to hear in large gatherings choose to avoid them the majority of time, impacting their social life.
For seniors who rely on social interaction to keep their brain sharp and nimble, this avoidance can slowly become catastrophic, causing brain atrophy due to lack of stimulation. Over time it is suspected that this social under stimulation can lead to a greater risk of the early onset of dementia.
The Importance of Treatment
While hearing loss can make a huge impact in the way and frequency in which you communicate, treating your hearing loss with hearing aids can provide important benefits allowing people to become much more social again. While hearing aids cannot restore your hearing to it’s original ability, it can amplify the sounds you struggle with and send them to your inner ear so you can hear much more clearly.
Not only does it make it easier to hear your loved one’s, co-workers and collaborators but it increases your ability to hear while you are out and about. Hearing aid users are more likely to stay safe as they navigate the world, receiving important audio cues about their environment, like the proximity, location and speed of warning sounds.
While hearing loss is not a sole factor on people’s likeliness to expand their life space, having the ability to hear your surroundings increases the ease of travel and success in social events.
Seeking Treatment Early
The sooner you treat your hearing loss, the less of an impact hearing loss can have on your social life, mobility and cognitive health, allowing you to stay mobile and active. If you suspect you have a hearing issue, seek treatment today so you can enjoy all that life has to offer for years to come!