The Connection between Hearing Loss and Social Isolation

Preventing Hereditary Deafness
September 24, 2019

Hearing loss and social isolation

If you have not previously researched hearing loss, you may be surprised by how common this condition is. Hearing loss is especially common among older adults, as many experience age-related hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Hearing Disorders, approximately 25 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 experience some degree of hearing loss. For adults over the age of 75, that number increases to about 50 percent.

While age-related hearing loss is by no means uncommon, many of those who experience the condition suffer in isolation. This is understandable when you consider some of the effects hearing loss can have on one’s social and personal life. For example, untreated hearing loss can make conversations of all types more difficult. Due to this difficulty, a person may experience strained relationships with their partner, family, or friends. They may also withdraw from social activities and events because it has become more difficult to hear and understand sound.

With these difficulties in their personal and social life, a person with untreated hearing loss may isolate themselves. In addition to affecting their relationships, this also often impacts whether the person will seek and comply with treatment for hearing loss. Research shows that only 30 percent of older adults with hearing loss who would benefit from a hearing aid actually use them. The remaining 70 percent of seniors with hearing loss struggle with the condition in isolation.

It is easy to understand why a person with untreated hearing loss may isolate themselves. If it is difficult to understand what your partner is saying, you will probably stop asking questions and initiating conversations. If it is exhausting to attend social activities due to the strain required to try to understand sound and the embarrassment of not understanding what is going on, you will probably stop attending. If older adults with hearing loss are still in the workplace, communication difficulties due to untreated hearing loss may push them to seek retirement. Altogether, these factors can lead to near-total social isolation.

Unfortunately, the effects of struggling with hearing loss in isolation reach further than being alone and lonely. Studies have found that adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. They also experience paranoia at a greater rate than those with normal hearing or those who wear hearing aids. In addition, isolated older adults with hearing loss are more likely to experience low self-confidence.

Furthermore, untreated hearing loss has been linked to a greater likelihood and earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia. While hearing loss does not mean a person will experience cognitive decline, it greatly increases the likelihood and can speed up the process. Conversely, those with hearing loss who use hearing aids are less likely to experience cognitive decline, and the onset is slowed using hearing aids.

Overall, older adults with hearing loss who struggle in isolation often suffer more than is necessary. By seeking proper diagnosis and treatment, a person with hearing loss can experience a full social life and satisfying personal relationships.

For more information on hearing loss and social isolation, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our experienced audiologist, we invite you to contact our audiology practice today. We are eager to assist you.

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