Hearing Loss Can Increase Risk of Loneliness and Social Isolation
Untreated hearing loss can result in a wide range of problems and complications that may have a negative impact on daily life and contentment. The wide-reaching effects of hearing loss can be physical, mental, emotional, and social. Neglecting to take action when experiencing hearing loss generally only serves to exacerbate the issue, making it more difficult to carry out regular routines and participate in everyday activities.
Seniors are at a Greater Risk for Hearing Loss
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that as we get older we are at an increased risk for a variety of illnesses and health conditions. One health problem adults over the age of 65 are more likely to develop is hearing loss.
In many cases, seniors experience hearing loss gradually and often do not seek assistance until many years have passed and the issue has become significantly worse. During these years of auditory decline a lot of older adults struggle with a variety of complications including loneliness and social isolation.
Loneliness vs Social Isolation
People often use these terms interchangeably, even though they are not the same thing. The simplest way to describe the difference between the two is that social isolation is more situational while loneliness is more about perception.
Social isolation occurs when a person has a lack of people to interact with due to a minimal number of social contacts.
Loneliness on the other hand can occur regardless of the individual’s social network. Someone experiencing loneliness may have a variety of social contacts, but might still feel disconnected and disengaged from the people around them.
Detrimental Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a substantial risk factor for social isolation, loneliness, and eventually depression. One study done on the subject reported a greater than 50% increased risk of social isolation for people between the ages of 60 and 69 for every 10 decibel drop in hearing capacity.
As it becomes more difficult to follow and participate in regular conversation, seniors with hearing loss tend to withdraw from many social activities to avoid stress and embarrassment. As social isolation increases, so does the risk for an array of health problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune function
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive decline
Hearing Loss is a Treatable Cause of Loneliness and Social Isolation
Unlike other factors that may lead to someone becoming socially withdrawn, hearing loss can be managed and treated to improve hearing capabilities. A diverse range of hearing aids and assistive listening devices are available to deal with almost any degree of hearing loss.
Many people with hearing loss are initially resistant to the idea of wearing a hearing aid due the social stigma, expense, or the belief that they just don’t need it. However, the cost of refusing to seek assistance for hearing loss can be much more damaging.
Advancements in hearing aid technology have led to the development of some powerful devices that are barely noticeable and can even help people with severe hearing loss function more comfortably in social settings.
Benefits of Hearing Loss Treatment
People with hearing loss that have decided to take action and improve their hearing abilities with hearing aids report vast improvements in many aspects of their daily lives. The families of these individuals have also seen tremendous progress in communication capacity and elevated moods.
Some of the great benefits hearing aid users have reported include:
- Easier communication
- Better relations with friends and family
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Enhanced feelings of safety
- Clearer cognitive function
- Increased social activity
- More independent lifestyle
- Better quality of daily living