As a professional who deals with hearing loss every day it is easy for me to become blase about it. By that I mean we sometimes find ourselves focusing on the problem while losing sight of the effects it has on the people we deal with. I remember when I first qualified my focus was always on the hearing loss, and not the wider effects of the hearing loss on the person in front of me. That changed quickly as I began to realise the emotional destruction wrought by hearing loss. Hearing loss is not some arbitrary end, nor is it a sign of age and infirmity. It just is. Don't let hearing loss rob you of the joy in your life. I was reminded of all these things by an article submitted by Joe Fleming of Vive Health. Here is the article, have a good read of it and I will be back to you after it. Just to make it clear, these aren't typos, I write in UK English and Joe writes in US English.
Vive Health - Rebel Against Age
Did you know that 80% of adults over 65 who experience hearing loss never report it to a doctor? Instead, they attempt lifestyle and behavior adjustments to compensate including avoiding social gatherings and noisy venues, disrupting relationships because of communication problems, and even developing paranoia and nervousness around being alone and not being able to hear.
All of these unhealthy behaviors can funnel into overwhelming feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. In fact, a well-known study from earlier this century of 4,000 people with hearing issues and their spouses found that those who did not seek assistance with hearing aid devices had much higher rates of psychosocial disorders that negatively affected their life.
Anxiety, stress and depression can both physically manifest as painful symptoms including headaches, back and muscle pain, as well as lead to periods of inactivity that can affect weight, self-confidence, strength, and overall health. So how can you prevent and/or address hearing-related anxiety? Listen up!
Know the Early Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing issues might not necessarily mean you have a hearing impairment or are going deaf. It can simply involve things like ringing or buzzing in the ear, inability to hear speech in complex environments like large groups, no longer hearing normal household sounds like doorbells and phones, and trouble understanding someone over the phone. Picking up on early signs of hearing loss set you up for proactively addressing the situation before you develop stress-symptoms around it.
Talk with Your Doctor Right Away
Research has shown that the longer adults with hearing problems avoid accepting help from doctors and potentially hearing aids, the higher the chance they will develop anxiety, paranoia, frustration, or depression around those problems. Speaking with a medical professional right away is key to tackling hearing problems before they seriously impact your life.
Doctors will want to know your background including chronic infections, ongoing workplace noises, and family history that might affect a diagnosis prior to referring you to a specialist. It might be helpful to ask family members and friends if they too have picked up on any behaviors or issues they have seen in regards to your hearing so you can share that with the doctor as well.
Find a Canine Companion
While finding a companion dog for seniors provides both general friendship and security, canines can also help address hearing-related stress, both as a therapeutic partner and also as an alarm of sorts. For older adults who experience anxiety in not being able to hear in their own home, specially trained hearing dogs can assist with picking up on and physically alerting their owner to sounds and smells, like phones ringing, smoke, alarms, burning, doorbells, etc.
Dogs also make great motivators for getting out of the house and exercising. If you experience hearing loss and have fears about going outside on your own, a canine companion could provide the security and hearing assistance to encourage you to go for it.
Seek Out Social Opportunities
A large part of hearing-related anxiety involves socially isolating yourself, letting relationships degrade, and cutting yourself off from loved ones and friends. People with undiagnosed hearing loss might experience stress stemming from thoughts that friends might be angry with them, simply because they misheard or didn’t hear at all what a friend told them. Awkwardness and embarrassment from misunderstanding people in conversation can also cause frustration and anxiety over social situations.
If you experience hearing loss, get the help and assistance you need to hear again and put yourself out there. Go to lunch with friends, have your family over, volunteer, join a club - not only do these actions benefit your physical health, but your mental health will be stronger for it too.
If you are getting older and noticing shifts in your life like going out less, experiencing more conflict with family and friends, and simply feeling fearful of losing your independence, it might be time to get your ears checked. Hearing loss can be natural with age and the benefits of preventing anxiety, depression, and social isolation by taking it seriously far outweigh the risks of not.
As I said, sometimes I forget the impact that hearing loss can have on someone, Joe's article submission brought it home to me again. Hearing loss just is, it is not a statement or sign, it just is. Not dealing with it can cause a host of issues. What's more important though is that not dealing with it will take the joy out of your life.
People have all these hang ups about hearing aids and it fascinates me. Hearing aids are just a tool that allow someone to lead a normal life, that allow someone to fully engage with others. I remember someone saying to me years ago that I would not wear them because they would make me look old and senile. My response was that giving the wrong answers to questions and saying what did you say, repeat that and huh? Probably made you look that way.
Thank you to Joe Fleming for the article, Vive Health is a company that supplies all types of everything to help you rebel against age. I really like that concept.