How Treating Hearing Loss Helps Your Mental Health

How Treating Hearing Loss Helps Your Mental Health

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

If you ask someone about their experience of getting treatment for hearing loss, some common themes come up. Many people talk about how relieved they are to have easy conversations that make sense to them. Similarly, people report a relief of anxiety, frustration, and even depression once they are able to hear more clearly. People also talk about a return to enjoying their favorite activities, not only concerts and public speeches that require hearing ability but many others such as sports and outdoor leisure activities. 

Hearing health specialists had a hunch that these common experiences would add up to a solid statistical relationship between hearing loss treatment and better mental health, but a recent study was able to directly crunch these numbers. Clear Living is a healthcare and lifestyle website, and they asked 3,767 of their website users about their experiences of hearing loss. These reports added up to some striking connections between hearing loss, mental health, and general wellbeing. Let’s unpack the study and consider ways that getting treatment can relieve many of these negative effects

Health, Social Wellbeing, and Lifestyle

The comprehensive survey enabled respondents to provide a wide range of information about their experiences of hearing loss. One of the strengths of the study was that respondents did not only click a button with yes or no answers. They also provided their own statements to explain the relationship between health, wellbeing, and hearing loss. The results offered a window into not only the percentages of respondents who mentioned a particular trait but also an explanation in qualitative text for why they felt that way. This qualitative data was very important, given the non-random sample of respondents in the study. Rather than randomizing the participants, the collected group of website users is highly biased, and the statistical results are not generalizable. However, each of the individual reports is a window into the experiences of people with hearing loss. 

A vast majority of respondents cited personal and social problems related to hearing loss. The explanations for these experiences had a wide range, as well. Poor conversation with the biggest explanatory feature of social and personal problems, but the types of conversations that were affected were quite unique. Some described that their football skills declined without the ability to communicate on the field. Others talked about bars, bowling, or church meetings becoming socially difficult to navigate. Respondents tended to talk about the strain on family relationships, and some even said that hearing loss contributed to a relationship breaking up. In conversations, some people felt ashamed or embarrassed. They felt that others were mad at them for not understanding, even if it was the fault of hearing loss. One respondent mentioned that they answered a question in a way that didn’t make sense, and everyone started laughing. This feeling of embarrassment can lead some people with hearing loss to avoid social settings altogether as a way to prevent the shame and frustration that they have experienced in the past. 

Not only did people feel bad during conversations, but that feeling often followed them home afterward. Some people mentioned becoming depressed at their inability to participate in conversations. Respondents felt isolated not only when they were not attending social gatherings but even when they were sitting in a room with family but were unable to hear them. These effects on mental health have been documented in other studies, but this study is unique in explaining why people feel the way they do when they have untreated hearing loss. 

Treating Hearing Loss

You and your loved ones don’t need to continue down this path toward poor mental health due to hearing loss. With treatment, we know that many of these effects disappear, and most people with hearing aids feel better able to communicate, engage in social events, and connect with their loved ones. These reports of poor mental health related to hearing loss are truly heartbreaking, but the benefits of treating hearing loss provide a ray of light. Our loved ones can return to a thriving, active, and connected social life by getting the treatment they need, and you can help your loved one embark on this path to assistance!