Hearing loss and its social impact

If you experience hearing loss then you may be well aware of the profound impact it can have on a person's life. While some people may assume it’s simply about not being able to hear properly, hearing loss can have a significant social impact. Struggling to effectively communicate with friends, family and co-workers can lead to social isolation, anxiety and can even trigger depression.

Communication difficulties can appear in several ways and create barriers to socialising with groups or even on a one-to-one basis. It can stop you wanting to go public areas such as the theatre, restaurants or even family gatherings. At work you may find that you often try to avoid making phone calls or attending meetings, making it increasingly difficult for you to be productive and progress in your career.

Causes of hearing loss

There are a number of reasons for hearing loss and these relate to the type of hearing loss you have. The three main types of hearing loss are:

Sensorineural hearing loss

The most common type of hearing loss, it happens when the inner ear nerves become damaged and can’t effectively transmit sound signals to the brain. It is often caused by:

  • Ageing
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Head or ear injury
  • Hereditary
  • Diseases such as meningitis
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Malformation of the inner ear

Conductive hearing loss

Often happens as a result of obstructions in the middle or outer ear. This stops sound from being able to enter the middle ear. Common causes include:

  • Ear infections
  • Damaged eardrum
  • Build-up of earwax or other obstruction
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Malformation of the ear canal, outer ear or middle ear
  • Certain chemicals and medications
  • Perforated eardrum

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

Emotional effect of hearing loss

While there are obvious practical difficulties when you have hearing loss, there is also a psychological impact. When your hearing is impaired, it can leave you feeling frustrated, embarrassed and even angry. Not being able to understand what people are saying can also make you feel mistrustful and impatient with others. It can significantly dent your confidence, particularly in social situations. For some people, it can lead to intense feelings of loneliness, isolation and social withdrawal. You may also find yourself feeling more fatigued as struggling to hear conversations can be exhausting.

Social interaction

Hearing loss can often progress slowly. You may have found that gradually over time, you’ve been increasingly withdrawing from social situations that you find too challenging. This could be enjoying a meal with friends or family or spending time after work with co-workers. Leaving your hearing loss untreated can lead to certain social problems, such as:

  • Conversation are less spontaneous and fluid
  • Finding it hard to interact in noisy places
  • You struggle to distinguish sounds causing people to think you are ignoring them
  • Often distracted and lacking concentration
  • Loss of intimacy and sexual problems
  • Your personality has changed
  • Problems with getting on at work
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • You try to bluff your way through conversations, pretending you’ve heard what’s said

Relationships with family and friends

Many people take their hearing for granted and this can make it difficult if you have hearing loss and your friends and relatives don’t. They may not understand the extent of the repercussions that a loss of hearing can have on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Communicating with a partner or spouse who has any degree of hearing loss can be extremely difficult and often adds to problems within a couple’s relationship. Not only that, but miscommunication can cause conflict – saying 'I love you' isn't very sweet if you have to shout it.

Stop the social effects of hearing loss

While life may seem daunting and overwhelming when you have reduced hearing, it is possible to address your hearing loss and learn how to overcome the difficulties it poses. The first step in helping reduce the social impact of your hearing loss is by having a hearing test with a licensed hearing care professional. This will determine the type and severity of your hearing loss. Your audiologist may recommend hearing aids as an effective solution in either one or both ears.

Once you have had your hearing evaluated and appropriate hearing aids then you should find that most of the emotional effects of your hearing loss are soon resolved. While you’ve been putting off social engagements, you can get reacquainted with friends and family you’ve not been connected with. You can begin to interact with your co-workers again and even go back to your hobbies that you may have felt forced to drop before.

The sooner you accept your hearing loss and begin to take action, you will be in a better position to minimize these significant social and emotional effects and look forward to a good quality of life.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

It's time to finally treat your hearing loss. Sign up for a free consultation with a licensed hearing care professional today to determine if you have hearing loss. It’s the start of your journey towards better hearing.

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