Human beings are innately social creatures. Communication is the core of civilization, the glue that holds society together. When we’re cut off from other people in some way — when we can no longer communicate as effectively as we once did — it can be devastating.
We can no longer hear the beautiful sound of music, or the laughter of our grandchildren. We can no longer hear the voices of our loved ones. We have, in essence, lost a part of ourselves, one which was essential in connecting us to the people around us.
Such a loss can be extremely damaging to one’s mental health.
In a study published by healthcare and lifestyle website Clear Living, 89 percent of respondents indicated that hearing loss caused both social and personal problems. A further 59 percent said their relationships suffered, and 39 percent said conversations were more difficult. Many indicated that, as a direct result of these struggles, they had grown despondent, anxious or depressed.
We need to acknowledge that this is a problem. We need to understand that hearing loss impacts more than just one’s ears — it is a disability that bleeds over into every facet of one’s life. Only through this acknowledgement can we find a solution.
Here, then, are coping strategies for hearing loss at all ages, which integrate both the individual and their loved ones.
Hearing Loss in Children
Hearing loss goes hand-in-hand with a number of unique challenges for children. Especially with younger children, they are at a formative stage in their life, a time during which forming healthy relationships is arguably critical. Failure to diagnose and treat hearing loss can thus lead to behavioral problems, depression, severe introversion, and issues with self-esteem.
Listen to your children. If they indicate they have trouble hearing people speak, take them to a professional audiologist. And perhaps more importantly, make it clear to them that their hearing impairment does not somehow make them less valuable as a person.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important that children are taught to recognize this.
Hearing Loss in Young Adults
Hearing impairment can be extremely frustrating for young adults as well, causing considerable strain in personal, professional, and romantic relationships alike. The stress from these problems may cause the young person to withdraw, or to become sullen and volatile. The solution here is twofold.
First, an aural exam is imperative. A professional audiologist can diagnose not only what may be causing the youth’s hearing impairment, but also how it might be treated. Aside from this ear exam, it’s important to learn healthy coping strategies for the frustrations that often go hand-in-hand with the disability.
Perhaps they might distract themselves with challenges that don’t require hearing. Maybe they could start exercising or practicing yoga. In some cases, therapy and meditation may also help.
Regardless of how one chooses to cope, it’s equally-important that their peers understand the challenges of hearing loss, and that a reasonable attempt at accommodation is made.
Hearing Loss in Older Adults
As noted in Practical Neurology Magazine, multiple studies indicate a link between hearing loss and increased cognitive decline in older adults. An older individual suffering from hearing loss is therefore more at risk of suffering from conditions such as dementia, which can often have many of the same symptoms. This is, of course, in addition to the other harm that hearing impairment can bring to one’s emotional and mental well-being.
They have spent their entire lives hearing. They have a career and a family. They have hobbies and passions. Hearing loss can be devastatingly disruptive as a result, even causing one to go through the stages of grief.
This is precisely why for older individuals, it is important that impending hearing impairment is recognized and treated as early as possible. The sooner you visit an audiologist and receive a diagnosis, the better. That’s why I personally recommend annual hearing exams for individuals 45 and older.
Beyond that, an effective support system is an important part of treatment. Friends and family who are compassionate and understanding, and who do not hold an individual’s hearing impairment against them. Again, as in youths, cognitive therapy may also help.
Hearing loss can be an incredibly difficult, trying ordeal. It’s important that we recognize this, and that we learn not only patience, but also to accept the need for measures such as therapy. Through compassion, education, and the aid of a medical professional, coping with hearing loss is entirely possible.
It all starts with communication.
About the Author:
Dr. Pauline Dinnauer, AuD is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing and hearing aid consultation across the US.