Psychosocial Implications of Hearing Loss

When someone discovers that he, she, or a loved one has a hearing loss, there is a tendency to experience a feeling of distress. Oftentimes this emotion coincides with concerns about aging and self-perceived negative social stigmas associated with aging.

These emotions, if turned inward, can cause the person with hearing difficulties to become alienated from family and friends. Here is what generally occurs. (Note that this is for individuals who have chosen not to receive professional hearing healthcare.)

1. Family members and friends, no matter how well intentioned, become frustrated trying to communicate with the hearing-impaired person.

2. The person with the hearing loss becomes even more frustrated with the family member(s) and friends who do try to communicate, but they lack the learned skills, such as those taught in Clear Speech, to do so effectively.

3. The person with the hearing loss sometimes places the blame for miscommunications on the family members or friends because “they speak too fast” or “mumble their words.”  The person with the hearing loss begins to withdraw.

4. Family members and friends sometimes confuse the miscommunications with memory loss and erroneously conclude that the person is experiencing diminishing memory capabilities.

5. The person with the hearing loss and the family members and friends drift apart in a sort of vicious cycle in which no one involved can help or reach out to the other.

Left unaddressed, hearing loss can lead to depression, sadness, paranoia, anxiety, insecurity, and a measurable decrease in an individual’s social activity, further enlarging the gap between family and friends.

What a sad situation! And what makes this scenario all the more sad is that it actually occurs quite frequently — and in most cases it doesn’t have to.

That’s because studies have shown that most people diagnosed with hearing loss can benefit from appropriately chosen and properly fit hearing aids designed for their unique audiological profile.

One study, conducted in 1999 by the Seniors Research Group for the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that people within its sample (2,304 hearing-impaired people aged 45 and older, with both treated and untreated hearing loss) who had been properly fit with correct hearing aids experienced these benefits:

  • Better relationships with family members and friends
  • Better feelings about themselves
  • Improved mental health
  • Greater independence and security

Many of the participants also reported improvements in their confidence, relationships with children and grandchildren, and a better view of life overall.

The NCOA study confirmed what many audiologists already believed — hearing loss is closely linked to emotional well-being and quality of life.

And yet, many — too many — Americans keep themselves from seeking treatment for a variety of reasons. In fact, only about 22% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually do use these products.  If you or a family member are among the 78% who are not using hearing technology, my advice is to seek advice from an AudigyCertified™ professional who has the education, training, and experience for successful hearing technology fitting and counseling.

Hearing is, after all, one of our five senses and a cornerstone in our ability to communicate with others.

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