It starts with simply taking the back seat in group conversations.
It’s difficult to hear what anyone is saying with any clarity, so listening intently makes it difficult to contribute anything meaningful because as soon as you’ve processed what’s being said (or what you think has been said), the conversation has passed you by.
And it’s worse when it’s a noisy environment like a shopping centre or a restaurant.
Going out in large groups is stressful for that very reason, so it’s easier to decline invitations and just stay home.
Before too long, there is a moment of panic when you realise the world is beginning to pass you by and that further exacerbates anxiety and depression.
Hearing Loss and Social Isolation, Loneliness and Depression
Hearing loss affects more than just that physical sense, it can cause people to withdraw from activities and social interaction which, sadly, can result in anxiety, social isolation, loneliness and depression.
This can impact further on your general health as well. Loneliness and isolation can trigger the production of the stress hormone cortisol and change your autoimmune response making you susceptible to a range of other medical conditions.
Recent research into the issue has shown that it can increase the likelihood of mortality by 26%. Furthermore, in terms of health risks, it’s comparable to well-known factors like obesity and smoking.
Such studies demonstrate how dangerous loneliness can be to health and wellbeing and why it must be addressed.
So, it is not at all surprising to learn researchers have discovered that people who decided to do something about their hearing loss and invested in a hearing aid reported fewer incidences of feeling sad or depressed.
In fact, those who used their hearing aids found some remarkable benefits:
Hearing aid users reported significant improvements in many areas of their lives, ranging from their relationships at home and sense of independence to their social life and their sex life. In virtually every dimension measured, the families of hearing aid users also noted the improvements but were even more likely than the users to report improvements.
But social isolation can be become a habit after a while, so it is important to explore a few strategies to overcome the inertia once you’ve been fitted with hearing aids.
Talk To Your Family And Friends
Let them know how you’ve been feeling over the past few years and ask for their help in getting more active.
Depending on the nature and severity of your hearing loss you may need to let them know that having hearing aids has given you improved hearing, but not necessarily perfect hearing.
Let them know there are things they can do to help you follow conversations more clearly because you’d love to listen to them and find out what’s happening in their world.
Ask them to:
- Use a slower rate of speech. This is often more beneficial then shouting.
- Speak to you face to face
- Rephrase a sentence if you’re having difficulties picking up what they’re saying
Plan to make regular visits – or invite them to come to visit you.
Rediscover lost hobbies
Sometimes hearing loss can cause you to drop some of your favourite activities. If your favourite activities – movies, concerts, club meetings – has been difficult in the past, consider picking some of those activities up again.
If you’re new to hearing aids, you might want to start with activities in smaller groups to get used to hearing speech in noise.
Take some exercise
Medical research has found there are benefits of regular exercise as a way of dealing with mild forms of depression. Going for a walk with a friend is a great way to start getting active. More and more councils are encouraging group exercise programs in local parks. This is a great way to meet new people and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
Retiring from work, in addition to hearing loss, can also exacerbate feelings of depression.
If you have time to spare, there is a whole world of volunteering opportunities – visiting with people who can’t get out and about, assisting at animal shelters, working with community service organisations is another great way to get out and about.
Learn something new
Use your improved hearing to help stimulate the brain and consider joining some classes and clubs. U3A, the University of the Third Age, has local groups with plenty of interesting activities, speakers and events.
The most important thing is to make that first step. The fact that you’ve decided to do something about your hearing loss is an excellent start.
Be sure to use your hearing aids. If you are new to hearing aids, they can take a little while to become accustomed to them.
We have some great articles on what to expect, and what you can do to make the most of your hearing aids.