Hearing loss impacts on our mental wellbeing
Hearing loss not only affects our ability to hear, but also to connect with the world around us. The consequences of a hearing loss manifest themselves in a broad spectrum of an individual’s life. These may occur at home, in the workplace and in the community.
Emotional Impact of Hearing Loss
Hearing impairment can negatively affect interpersonal communication, intimate relationships, access to education, employment opportunities and economic independence.
The emotional impacts of hearing loss can be far reaching. They can cause feelings of distress, frustration, anger, embarrassment, inferiority, shame, loss of identity, rejection, and loneliness (Bennett et al., 2021). People with hearing loss tend to develop both helpful and unhelpful social behaviours in an attempt to “cope” with the hearing loss and associated emotional distress in social situations. These may include avoiding situations such as not attending social events, or staying silent in group conversations (often referred to as “tuning out”).
The breakdown of communication that is often experienced due to hearing loss can affect an individual’s ability to socially engage. Consequently, untreated hearing loss can lead to reduced social activity, social isolation, lower levels of self-esteem, loneliness, and reduced quality of life.
Untreated hearing loss has also been associated with increased rates of anxiety, depression, poor mental health and lower life expectancy.
Whilst hearing loss can affect all ages, it is considered to be one of the most common causes of disability amongst the ageing population. It affects approximately one third of adults over the age of 55 and three in every four people aged over 70 years. Hearing loss is also associated with a number of other health conditions. These include diabetes (Sommer, 2017), dementia (Livingston, 2021) and heart disease (Tan, 2018). Research has yet to uncover why these occur with hearing loss.
It is also known that hearing loss may occur along with vision impairment, reduced dexterity, cognitive decline (Jayakody, 2020) and a greater risk of falling. These may negatively impact the successful treatment of hearing loss.
Does your hearing difficulties make it hard to join in on the conversation or catch the punchline of a joke?
The social and emotional impacts of hearing loss are real, and help is available.
Bennett RJ, Saulsman L, Eikelboom RH, Olaithe M. (2021) Coping with hearing loss distress: A qualitative investigation using Leventhal’s self-regulation theory. International Journal of Audiology. Accepted May 2021.