While a lot of us are getting back to our social lives after the global pandemic which spread across the world around three years ago, some aspects of our social life still just don’t feel the same. This may feel especially true for people with a developing hearing loss. It may have been present years before the pandemic hit, but somehow taking a break and returning to social interaction may highlight the ways in which we were not only struggling to hear, but how that affected how we connect socially.
The Prevalence of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often develops slowly over years, in such gradual increments that you don’t even realize you have it. However, this condition is incredibly common, especially as we grow older. One in three people 65 and older will struggle with hearing loss, a number which rises to half of all people 75 and older. Hearing loss, however, is not a condition which affects only the elderly. In only one third of cases of people with hearing loss is related to advanced age. People of all ages may suffer due to exposure to loud noise at work or even while relaxing, certain medications, traumatic brain injuries, ear infection, or some chronic diseases affecting the flow of blood to the body such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Social Connection
The important thing to do, if you suspect you have hearing loss, is to test for it. All too often people go years without treatment, and this can lead to a wide array of adverse health effects which aren’t only physical and cognitive, but emotional too, affecting overall mood and quality of life. People wait on average seven to ten years from the time they have a hearing loss to act—giving far too much time for some of the devastating social impacts of hearing loss to set in, which can take a lot of work and years to repair—if at all!
Healthy Hearing is Essential to Communication
Many people take their hearing for granted until it begins to fail. However, just think of some of your favorite ways to connect to the people closest to you in your life: long conversations, inside jokes, simple nothings and banter that somehow feels like home. It’s not just what we say, but the ease in and comfort that communication provides in strengthening intimacy. When hearing loss sets in, these subtle moments to connect start to erode, giving way for feelings of loneliness where there used to be understanding. This is a problem that won’t just stop with your family and friends, but affect professional relationships and the ability to make new connections as well.
Hearing Loss and Social Isolation
When you struggle to hear people day after day, frustration can build up as you strain to hear what is said. Hearing loss doesn’t happen all at once. It’s often certain consonant sounds which are lost in conversation first, causing your brain to fill in the blanks in everyday conversation. Over time you may feel more drained from any social interaction than ever before. It is far too common to use this as an unspoken excuse to opt out of one-on-one hang outs with old friends, dinner parties and family reunions. Over time an untreated hearing loss will amplify social isolation, and lead to chronic depression.
Addressing Hearing Loss
While hearing loss in most cases is permanent, the good news is that by treating hearing loss you can improve communication, increasing ease in connection and rebuilding relationships which may feel strained. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These digital devices fit in or around the ear canal and can be programmed based upon your latest hearing exam to amplify the specific sounds you struggle with. This not only makes it easier to understand the people in your life and be more aware of the world around you but will allow you to start to rebuild connections with the people in your life that give it meaning and purpose.
If you are struggling with hearing loss, don’t ignore subtle signs. You deserve to be able to connect to the people in your life now. Do it for you and do it for them: Contact us today to set up a hearing exam and find out what we can do for you. It’s that simple!