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Hearing loss is a growing health concern that millions of people are navigating in the United States. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 30 million people experience some degree of hearing loss. Impaired hearing often occurs gradually which means that people may not be aware of any reduced ability to hear as it occurs. This makes hearing loss more of an invisible health issue that can be easily overlooked or ignored. People often assume that because it is not highly visible or fatal, that it’s not too serious of a medical condition. However, hearing loss can significantly impact all aspects of a person’s life including causing relationships in both personal and professional lives to suffer.
Impact of Hearing Loss
Impaired hearing means that one’s ability to absorb, hear, and process speech and sound is limited. This makes communication difficult to navigate, resulting in the following experiences:
- Difficulty hearing distinct words because speech sounds muffled
- Frequently needing others to repeat themselves and/or speak loudly
- Needing to move to quieter areas to have a conversation
- Difficulty following conversations with multiple people
- Missing inside jokes or things said quietly
- Reading mouths to make out words and sentences
This kind of extra work to engage in conversations can create an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Causing people to feel frustrated, stressed, and anxious.
Strain on Relationships
Having conversations can start to feel like more work than pleasure and can really take a toll on relationships. This strained communication can cause people to experience:
- Fatigue: the additional effort and energy used to participate in conversations can be exhausting. In an attempt to hear more clearly, people will often overwork themselves by reading mouths, asking others to repeat themselves, and trying to fill in the communication gaps. All of this work is often stressful and can lead to fatigue.
- Social Withdrawal: this exhaustion can cause people to be disinterested in interacting with others. They may avoid social gatherings and environments with background noise, participating in social activities, attending events etc. This can result in spending less time with family and friends.
- Overall Health Decline: social isolation can deeply impact one’s mental and emotional health. Retreating from your community, support systems, and doing the things you love can contribute to depression, anxiety, and loneliness. This is detrimental for one’s general well-being.
The cumulative impact of these symptoms can erode closeness and intimacy between people. Strain on communication and pulling back from engaging with others creates distance and disconnection. If hearing loss is not addressed, one’s health can worsen and relationships will be further impacted.
Benefits of Treatment
It is incredibly important for people to have their hearing assessed. Hearing tests determine any impairment, the degree, and specific type. Fortunately, there are several useful ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are small devices that help pick up, louden, and process sound. This allows people to hear significantly better, truly improving the quality of their life by:
- Enhancing Communication: with hearing aids, people may hear sounds and speech they haven’t in quite some time. With increased ability to hear, people can move through conversations with greater ease. Having conversations in environments with background noise and with multiple people becomes less complicated. The fatigue, stress, and anxiety caused by the extra effort exerted to hear is alleviated. This allows people to enjoy interacting with others.
- Increasing Independence: being able to be more carefree and have fun socializing can boost one’s confidence. You no longer have to rely on others to assist you with hearing more clearly. Not needing others to speak loudly or slowly, move to quiet areas, asking others to repeat themselves etc. can restore your sense of independence while engaging in conversation.
- Improving Wellness: better hearing allows people to fully participate in all of the activities of their daily life. This cultivates greater happiness and wellness by reducing the hardship of navigating communication.
By treating hearing loss, relationships can be enhanced. Hearing better facilitates more effective communication and supports people living as healthily as possible!