When a person experiences hearing loss, it is not just their ears and sense of hearing at stake. Impaired hearing can lead to other health issues, including impaired balance, memory and mental health. Over 1.5 billion people worldwide live with hearing loss, and many of those may develop mental challenges and illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. Poor or declining hearing can even trigger extreme anger and suicidal ideation.
Protecting your hearing not only prevents hearing loss – it can safeguard your mental health as well.
4 Ways Hearing Loss Affects Emotional and Mental Health
Hearing and speech are the primary ways a person communicates with those around them. Hearing loss limits or impairs this ability, making it harder to relate to the people closest to us, such as friends, family and colleagues.
Losing the ability to hear and understand things clearly can make basic communication frustrating and exhausting. This can contribute to deteriorating mental health.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the related conditions.
Many people who are suffering from hearing loss withdraw from social situations, resulting in feelings of loneliness and isolation. This can lead to episodes of depression. Depression is the most common mental health concern caused by hearing loss. Some symptoms of depression include crying, fluctuations in weight, and sleep disruptions.
The American Medical Association published a study that found that 11.4% of adults with a hearing impairment also experience moderate to severe depression. By comparison, of those with “excellent” hearing, only 4.9% suffer from depression.
A South African study published by Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University examined hearing impairment and its associated impact on the quality of life among elderly residents of retirement homes. The study found that “29% of participants felt depressed, worried and anxious because of their hearing loss and 20% of participants felt unaccepted by their significant others as a result of their hearing impairment”.
2. Mood Swings
As people are adjusting to losing their hearing, feelings of denial are commonplace. This can also lead to anger outbursts that may escalate into mood swings, violent tendencies and behaviour.
Dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter, helps your body regulate mood and behaviour. The transfer of dopamine between your nerves and the rest of your body helps your auditory neurons stay healthy. A decline in auditory stimulation (as a result of hearing loss) may affect the body’s dopamine levels.
When someone experiences hearing impairment, it can become harder to hear sounds that guide their lives, such as traffic signals, ringing phones, or a morning alarm. Many affected people worry about missing these important sounds, causing them to experience bouts of anxiety.
4. Cognitive Decline and Dementia
Processing and interpreting sounds keep our brains active and alert. When someone isolates themselves, avoiding social engagements and interactions, the part of the brain that processes and interprets sound rests too frequently, something that can quicken mental decline. In such instances, since the brain can no longer pick up as many sounds, fewer signals are sent to the brain, resulting in further mental decline.
Coping with Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is something that usually develops slowly over time, often escaping notice. It is common for friends, colleagues or family to realise what is happening before those experiencing hearing loss do so themselves.
Some common signs of hearing loss are:
- Asking others to repeat themselves or having difficulty following conversations
- Difficulty hearing in noisy places or setting the TV volume too high
If you believe you are experiencing hearing loss, here are some things you may want to do.
Make an Appointment with an Audiologist
An audiologist is a hearing healthcare specialist trained to identify and treat hearing disorders.
An audiologist or hearing healthcare practitioner can assess your hearing by making use of an audiometer like eMoyo’s Kuduwave portable audiometer. eMoyo is a leading medical tech company, and their telemedicine-enabled boothless portable audiometers ensure you can undergo a clinically validated hearing test wherever you are.
Once your hearing has been assessed, an audiologist can help you decide on suitable treatment options. These may include surgery, hearing aids, or assistive listening devices.
Hearing loss can have a negative impact on your mental health and overall well-being. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or facing other mental health challenges, consider scheduling an appointment with a therapist.
A therapist can help you navigate the challenges and emotions that a journey with hearing loss may bring. They can also help you rediscover meaning so that you can find new ways to enjoy life.
Educate Yourself and Find Support
There are many organisations specialising in the prevention and treatment of hearing loss. These organisations are dedicated to increasing hearing loss education and awareness, offering many educational resources to people experiencing hearing loss. They can also put you in touch with other people facing similar challenges.
Stay Up to Date on Hearing Technology
If you are experiencing hearing loss, staying abreast of the latest hearing healthcare technology can ensure you receive the treatment best suited for your needs.
eMoyo is a South African med-tech company dedicated to ensuring quality hearing healthcare for everyone who needs it, regardless of their location or socio-economic status. Inventors of the revolutionary range of Kuduwave portable audiometers, eMoyo also offers a range of equipment for ear canal and tympanic membrane examinations used by audiologists and hearing healthcare professionals both in fixed and mobile audiology practices around the globe.
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