Hearing Loss and Happiness — Regaining Life’s Highlights

It’s more than just hearing

Losing one’s hearing means more than just losing the ability to hear sounds. Depending on the degree of loss, it can often mean missing out on social interactions and can result in a sense of isolation and depression.

Hearing loss affects more than 9 million Americans over the age of 65, and it affects 10 million Americans ages 45–64. But about three out of five older Americans with hearing loss and six out of seven middle-aged Americans with hearing loss do not use hearing aids.

According to a recent blog post by audiologist Kevin Amdahl, M.S., on Amdahl Hearing’s blog, “when people lose their hearing, they tend to lose the ability to hear some types of sounds more than others — most often the high notes.”

He explains that in English, consonants provide much of our clarity in speech, but these sounds occur at a much lower volume level than vowels. Therefore, if you can’t hear consonant sounds, you might think others are mumbling and miss much of what is being said. This leads to social isolation, as others around you converse while you feel invisible.

According to a 2005 white paper, “The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Income,” by Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., of the Better Hearing Institute in Washington, D.C., “impaired hearing results in distorted or incomplete communication, leading to greater isolation and withdrawal, and therefore lower sensory input. In turn the individual’s life space and social life become restricted.”

A major new study conducted by the Seniors Research Group (an alliance between the National Council on Aging and Market Strategies, Inc.) also shows hearing loss has harmful side effects.

Consequences of untreated hearing loss

“This study debunks the myth that untreated hearing loss in older persons is a harmless condition,” said James Firman, Ed.D., president and CEO of the National Council on Aging.

More than 2,300 adults over the age of 50 with hearing loss participated in the study. Results showed:

● Participants were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia than their peers

● They were less likely to participate in organized social activities compared to those who wore hearing aids.

● Participants reported that “other people get angry at me for no reason,” which psychologists often identify as an indicator of paranoia.

Improving hearing means improving life

According to the Better Hearing Institute, people with hearing loss delay a decision to get hearing help because “they are unaware of how receiving early treatment for hearing loss has the potential to literally transform their lives.”

Research by the National Council on Aging on more than 2,000 people with hearing loss, as well as their significant others, demonstrated:

● Hearing aids are clearly associated with improvements in social, emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing of people with mild to severe hearing loss.

● Hearing aid usage is positively related to these quality-of-life issues:

○ Earning power

○ Communication in relationships

○ Intimacy and warmth in family relationships

○ Ease in communication

○ Emotional stability

○ Sense of control over life events

○ Perception of mental functioning

○ Physical health

○ Group social participation

Perceived Benefit of Hearing Aids

Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., said in his paper that a survey conducted by the National Family Opinion (NFO) panel in 1997 of hearing aid wearers and their families showed marked improvement in 16 areas of their life. The top three were “relationships at home,” “feelings about self,” and “life overall.” These documented benefits of achieving better hearing outweigh the uneducated attitudes of vanity and resignation. Life will pass you by in many ways if your hearing loss is untreated.

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