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The Mental and Emotional Effects of Hearing Loss
Did you know that loss of hearing can harm your emotions? Studies show that hearing loss can cause psychological distress and subjectiveness in adults. So, loss of hearing does not just impair your ability to communicate, it could affect your mental wellness. But there is more to it. According to this report by Harvard Medicine, hearing loss can accelerate memory deterioration and reduce the ability to think.
So, protecting your hearing means protecting your mental health.
Further studies show that one in three adults aged 65 years and over suffer from age-related hearing loss. As you grow older, the chances of losing your sense of hearing increase drastically. Read on and learn which mental disorders are associated with hearing loss and how you can protect your mental health.
Denial and Irritation
“I’m not that old” is the most common response people have to the possibility of losing their sense of hearing. Loss of hearing causes a drastic change in a person’s life which can be hard to adjust to, despite there many great hearing aids on the market today. Big brands like Bose have started producing their own hearing aids, and even Walmart hearing aids are now widely and easily available.
Many people who have the condition deny it entirely or refuse to accept the severity. When reality dawns, many become disoriented and are vulnerable to various mental health challenges. Some self-isolate or withdraw socially, and others become irritable. Either way, it affects the quality of life.
Isolation and Social Withdrawal
A person who has a hearing disability will find it hard to follow discussions. They often interject at the wrong time, talk off-topic, or even dominate conversations. They may come across as rude or incompetent. As a result of frequent correction or rejection, the individual could avoid meeting with family, friends, or the general public. They could isolate themselves and are vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
Depression and Anxiety
A survey published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery journal revealed that more than one in ten (11.4%) of adults with a hearing disability have moderate to severe depression. This is twice as much as the average prevalence of depression in the general population of adults (5.9%).
Loss of hearing can set you off on a path of self-isolation and make you feel like you have lost a part of your identity. When combined, these two factors can accelerate feelings of sadness and hopelessness leading to depression. According to the mental health team at TMS & Brain Health, signs of depression can include inability to sleep, suicidal thoughts, overwhelming fatigue, and loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure. While hearing loss may not entirely cause depression in some, it can add to a list of frustrations that can accumulate into significant mental health challenges.
Losing your hearing can also trigger anxiety disorders. When a person with a hearing disability faces a crucial conversation, it can trigger stress and worry. They fear their disability could affect the outcome of the conversation.
Loss of hearing is also associated with schizophrenia. Studies show that people with hearing loss are more vulnerable to dopamine dysregulation – a known cause of schizophrenia. In addition, prolonged exposure to loud noises can cause tinnitus – a condition in which a person constantly hears a ringing sound. As many as 15% of all adult Americans suffer from tinnitus. The ratio is much higher among retired and serving military personnel due to prolonged exposure to loud noises.
The unending ringing can be debilitating both physically and psychologically. Tinnitus causes hallucinations, insomnia, and episodes of rage. It can trigger schizophrenia and other mental disorders. In addition, the condition also affects the ability to work. Therefore, it reduces their social participation and makes them more susceptible to depression.
Cognitive Decline and Dementia
Among older adults, loss of hearing can also reduce the ability to think and worsen memory loss. Due to reduced social engagement, coupled with a constant focus on coping with the disability, hearing loss can lead to cognitive deterioration. It can also accelerate dementia and mental decline.
Protecting Your Hearing
With such far-reaching effects on your mental health, it is crucial to take the following steps to protect your hearing. The most common trigger for hearing loss is loud sounds. Avoid loud noises. If the sound hurts your ears, triggers a ringing in your ears, forces you to raise your voice to talk, or overshadows the voices of people near you, it is probably too loud – avoid it. Here are ways you can avoid loud sounds.
- Avoid loud music, especially when listening through earphones.
- Protect yourself during loud events. Take a break every 15 minutes to recover from the noise.
- Take precautions at work. Wear ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs, or move to quieter locations.
- Visit a doctor and get your hearing tested.
A Final Word on Protecting Your Hearing and Mental Health
Hearing loss is an invisible but widespread disability in America. Many people fail to notice it or sometimes ignore it. However, this can only make matters worse. Hearing loss and associated ailments like tinnitus can have severe consequences on your mental health.
Although hearing loss is not curable, the good news is that you can prevent it, slow it down and treat it. If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, hearing aids could be the perfect solution. If you have a hearing disability and sometimes behave unusually, reach out for help and set yourself on a path to recovery.