Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Socially Connected

Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Socially Connected

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

If you have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss, you are probably examining your options for treatment and assessing how your hearing loss affects your everyday life. One aspect of untreated hearing loss that people often overlook is the strain it places on our quality of life. Hearing is a key component of how we communicate with others and feel understood, and when our hearing isn’t working for us it can take a huge toll on our social connections. Here are just a few ways untreated hearing loss can hold you back socially:

Conversational Disconnection

When hearing becomes difficult, keeping up with the flow of speech can seem frustrating or futile especially in situations with a lot of people or background noise. Rather than hold up the pace of a conversation, many people instead choose to disengage themselves or fake understanding. While this tactic may seem “polite” it has the unintended effect of alienating you from your interactions with others. It can lead to us missing out on experiences, knowledge and opportunities and leave you feeling misunderstood. 

Our ability to communicate with those around us is critical to our social health, whether that is on the job, at school or at home with our family. If your hearing is causing you to fake your comprehension in everyday conversations, treating your hearing loss can help restore clarity to those interactions.

Anxiety and Depression

Problems with communication end up with consequences that ripple outward. One result of impaired communication is an elevated sense of anxiety and an increased tendency towards depression. Feelings of anxiety can arise when new or unfamiliar surroundings or situations are accompanied by the stress of hearing challenges. People living with untreated hearing loss experience anxiety at a much higher rate than populations without hearing loss. 

Similarly, depression can grow as a response to the pressures of hearing loss. Hearing loss can disconnect us from our closest friends and family and make it hard to feel heard and understood. Like anxiety, those with untreated hearing loss see a higher rate of depression and a lowered quality of life. 

Social Withdrawal

Living with untreated hearing loss can make it hard to keep up with conversations as well as navigate new or noisy settings. These factors mean that hearing loss can greatly diminish your enjoyment of social activities. Untreated hearing loss can make even your favorite activities seem difficult or lackluster – everything from meeting up with friends, attending parties, live concerts, sporting events to religious services or family vacations.

As a result of untreated hearing loss, many people end up changing their social behavior – even if they don’t recognize hearing loss as an underlying factor in this adaptation. 

Social Isolation

Another challenge for people with untreated hearing loss is the risk of social isolation. Hearing loss that goes unaddressed is connected to a number of quality of life factors including anxiety, depression and isolation. Social isolation can be deadly and it exists when connections to family, friends and community wither. 

Social isolation can take root in the type of social withdrawal mentioned above, and drastically restricts mobility, mental and emotional health as well as a number of cognitive factors. With an increased risk of isolation, people with untreated hearing loss are more vulnerable to this limited and limiting condition.

Treating Hearing Loss

It can’t be ignored that untreated hearing loss threatens your social connections and puts you at higher risk for isolation, anxiety and reduced mobility. Fortunately, treating hearing loss helps mitigate these ill effects and keeps you engaged with the people and things that matter most in your life. 

Using hearing aids makes it easier to hear and comprehend speech. Modern devices are programmed to help you reduce background noise and navigate difficult sound environments. Having a fuller, richer sense of hearing again makes it easier to stay socially involved and connected with others. 

When you treat hearing loss is important. While hearing aids can help most people at any stage of hearing loss, the earlier hearing loss is addressed the more fluidly hearing aids can be incorporated into a “natural” sense of hearing. Treating hearing loss early also has the advantage of circumventing the serious consequences that can develop when hearing loss is left untreated.