“Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.” – Helen Keller
While life’s ups and downs affect us all, we should be acutely sensitive to how hearing challenges contribute to social isolation and daily moods. Do you or any loved ones feel negatively impacted in chronic ways?
As reputable research emphasizes:
“The coronavirus pandemic has certainly raised awareness about social isolation and feelings of loneliness and thus, there has never been a more opportune time to implement strategies for managing social isolation and loneliness and bringing to the forefront the recognition that hearing loss is a factor associated in both.” 1
While hearing loss relates to many medical conditions and often by extension, physical health, it may also influence mental or psychosocial well-being. When communication ability is optimal, daily conversations flow naturally, interpersonal activities engage, and self-confidence is bolstered. Sharing meals with friends is joyful, favorite hobbies pleasurable and socialization empowered. When precious sounds are clearly understood, we are happy to hear.
In stark contrast, limited hearing acuity and ability to understand can trigger loneliness. Normal discussions become difficult and formerly fun group interactions are frustrating instead of fulfilling. In these ways, hearing loss may prompt mentally unhealthy chain reactions.
Research indicates hearing loss may increase depression risk, especially for those younger than 70 years. In the U.S., it is estimated that 37 million adults have some degree of hearing loss, while 10% of our population suffers from some form of depressive illness. Evidently, our capacity to process life’s soundtrack can influence personal relationships, social interactions and mood.
Research from a cross-sectional study included 25 665 U.S individuals aged 18 years and older indicates:
(HL = Hearing Loss)
“In a large nationally representative sample of US adults, we observed an association between greater self-reported HL and increased odds of psychological distress. Compared with those with no HL, individuals with moderate or greater HL had approximately 2-fold greater odds of reporting psychological distress and using antidepressant or antianxiety medications and approximately 1.5-fold greater odds of seeking mental health care in the past 12 months.” 2
Among many factors, associated stress is negative and, with proper treatment, mentally stimulating activities and vibrant social support are positive.
Further, more should know that those with hearing and vision challenges experience depressive symptoms more than the general population. Apparently, there is more acute need for timely intervention when compounding effects of sensory deficits limit capacity to manage activities of daily living, safely navigate home surroundings or feel self-confident.
By getting your hearing tested regularly and ensuring personalized solutions are properly fit, your listening acuity will be optimal. Precious sounds matter and experiencing them to your full potential may improve mental well-being and social vitality. In close consultation with your medical and social support network, we recognize that as healthy decisions may add years to your life, the joy of hearing will add life to your years.
1) Anthea Bott & Gabrielle Saunders (2021) A scoping review of studies investigating hearing loss, social isolation and/or loneliness in adults, International Journal of Audiology, 60:sup2, 30-46, DOI: 10.1080/14992027.2021.1915506
2) Bigelow RT, Reed NS, Brewster KK, et al. Association of Hearing Loss With Psychological Distress and Utilization of Mental Health Services Among Adults in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(7):e2010986. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.10986