How Social Isolation is Affecting Those With Hearing Loss At Higher Rates

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Hearing loss and social isolation

Regardless of severity, hearing loss can present a wide range of complications in your day-to-day life. The deaf and hard of hearing community may struggle when it comes to emotional, academic, or social settings, as hearing loss can be an exhausting and sometimes frustrating barrier. Included alongside the technical issues of hearing loss such as difficulty following conversations, social stigma is a driving factor when deciding whether to receive treatment, use hearing aids, or even leave the house. Combined with listening fatigue and social stigma, hearing loss can result in serious social isolation that severely impacts your quality of life and social-emotional development. With links to depression, anxiety, and even dementia, combating social isolation that occurs with hearing loss is a critical component of hearing health treatment. A component well understood by AgingInPlace.org, a resource hub that aims to boost its reach to older patients with a resource guide to independent living over the age of 70. Unfortunately, social isolation is common in the deaf and hard of hearing community, even more so in older patients.

Listening Fatigue

There are multiple reasons as to why those with hearing loss will socially isolate themselves from friends and family or social activities and events, as hearing loss can be not only technically difficult but mentally exhausting as well. By exerting more effort than usual to hear and understand auditory information that is sent to the brain, those with hearing loss can suffer a phenomenon called “Listening Fatigue” in which they become physically and mentally fatigued. Constant fatigue is one reason many with hearing loss are opting out of social activities and choosing to stay home, though the consequences often reach much further than that. Social isolation due to listening fatigue is also effecting your paycheck, with lost productivity at work due to hearing loss related complications such as exhaustion or taking more sick days, projections estimate the cost to be $56 billion per year in the United States.

Social Stigma

Another cause of isolation associated with hearing loss is the stigma that can follow surrounding treatment and interacting with others. Studies have consistently linked hearing loss to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and social isolation, due to patients feeling that they cannot contribute or connect to others. Predictably, this had lead to plummeting self-esteem, persuading some to forgo social scenarios altogether. Similarly, the use of hearing aids is often stigmatized, leading to many patients to wait an average of 15 years before seeking treatment.

Older Patients Experience Isolation at Higher Rates

Research indicates that older members of the deaf and hard of hearing community tend to report much higher rates of social isolation than their younger counterparts. With many feeling as if they are bothering those in their life, hearing impaired seniors are experiencing much higher rates of social isolation. Fortunately, resources such as Aging In Place hope to assist seniors with resource guides to help reduce stigma and increase their quality of life. With only 30% of seniors utilizing hearing aids though they could directly benefit, the remaining 70% struggle in isolation, which groups like Aging In Place hope to change in the near future.

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