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Hearing loss can have far reaching effects on all aspects of your life. The ability to hear impacts what you understand, how you respond to others, and how you make sense of the world around you. Impaired hearing that is untreated makes communication and navigating your daily life difficult. Coping with this health challenge may cause you to feel frustrated and alone. It is important to know that hearing loss is actually something that many people are dealing with in the United States. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, 48 million people experience some degree of hearing loss making it a common health concern.
Impact of Hearing Loss
Reduced or declining ability to hear, if left untreated, can deeply impact your life. The sense of hearing is a major way that we receive and understand information. Our ears work to absorb sound from the environment, amplify this sound, and then translate the sound waves into electric impulses. These impulses are then sent to the brain and interpreted as sound that the brain makes meaning of. This process can be disrupted by a variety of factors such as medical conditions, environmental exposure to loud noise, and family (genetic) history. This can have several effects including:
- Declining Communication: it can be difficult to make out distinct words because speech and sound can seem muffled and unclear. This can cause you to miss words and sentences so following and understanding the conversation is challenging. This can lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and an overall frustrating time communicating. Because communication is part of everyday life, this can be consuming and chronically stressful.
- Fatigue: You may find yourself working really hard to fill in communication gaps by reading mouths, frequently needing other people to speak slower/louder, and to repeat themselves. Additionally, you may spend extra time thinking about ways to respond to information you have not entirely heard. This extra work requires you to spend more energy and may leave you feeling completely drained from engaging in conversations – especially in places with loud background noise.
- Social Withdrawal: this fatigue can lead to avoiding activities and environments that involve social engagement. You may find yourself not wanting to go to certain places that you know are noisy, spending less time with your family and friends, and not attending gatherings. This withdrawal from social engagement leads to isolation and often loneliness.
- Overall Health: social withdrawal can really impact your mental health. It can contribute to depression and anxiety. This can lead to a decrease in physical activity. Additionally, hearing loss can be indicative of other medical conditions. It has been linked to various health concerns such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
The relationships in your professional and personal life can suffer as a result of impaired hearing. We interact with others on a daily basis and if it becomes difficult to do so, this becomes a significant challenge that you experience consistently. Early detection of hearing loss is not only a preventative measure but can also improve the quality of your life.
How Treatment Can Improve Relationships
Hearing loss is absolutely treatable! There are several effective ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common way is by hearing aids. These small devices work to strengthen your hearing which can significantly improve your relationships by:
- Enhancing Communication: with increased ability to hear, you can follow entire conversations with more ease. You are better able to understand what others are saying and can respond effectively. No more missing out on inside jokes!
- Full Participation: treating hearing impairment can really alleviate the stress, anxiety, fatigue, and frustration caused by struggling to hear. This allows you to fully engage in activities, conversations, and move through spaces easily.
- Greater Independence: you do not have to rely on other people to speak loudly, slowly, and/or repeat themselves during conversations. Additionally, you may not need to keep increasing the volume on your devices (phone, T.V., laptop etc.). This independence can boost your confidence.
- Overall Happiness: being able to engage with other people more easily and navigate the environments you are in can positively impact your mood and mental health.