Hearing loss and aging seem to hand in hand. And with the baby boomer generation getting older, it seems hearing loss among the elderly is on the rise. But just because it is a naturally prevalent part of aging, becoming complacent about hearing health may be a dangerous proposition.
Mental Health Consequences
Anyone living with hearing loss, no matter the age of the individual, can easily become affected on an emotional level by their diminished hearing. Losing your hearing can cause a range of emotional reactions that can last for years such as anger, depression, anxiety, loneliness, isolation. Even dementia is suspected to be linked to hearing loss due to reduced cognitive functioning.
With the fact that more and more people are in need of hearing aids thanks to our ballooning older population, awareness of the implications hearing loss has on mental health is important. Individuals living with hearing loss should understand the vulnerability and those people who are in their family or social circles can help by looking for signs that the hearing loss is affecting a person emotionally in a persistent way.
Most people live with hearing loss for quite sometime before they realize what’s going on. Or they may know their hearing is diminishing but be in some level of denial about it that causes them to avoid seeking treatment. While they go untreated they may start feeling the mental health-related ramifications of reduced hearing with anxiety, depression, or cognitive decline.
Hearing loss is a major precursor to feelings of intense social isolation. People suffering from hearing loss may choose to self-isolate or feel isolated despite being surrounded by people because they are unable to participate in a conversation or hear what’s being said effectively. They may feel out of place in situations that they normally would have felt right at home in.
This is a problem that’s even more severe for the elderly since they are a population that has to deal with feelings of isolation due to friends dying, family moving away, or living in assisted living environments. Feeling alone in the final years combined with feeling isolated by one’s lack of hearing can give way to more serious mental health conditions such as depression or cognitive decline.
A serious mental health condition, depression can become an oppressive factor that prevents people with hearing loss to continue to try and lead a productive life. According to the National Council on Agin, people with hearing loss in a study of 2300 were 50% more likely to struggle with depression. Other similar studies have backed this statistic up.
If you or someone you know or love is experiencing permanent hearing loss, please be aware of the vulnerability to mental health conditions hearing loss poses. Make sure you or someone you love has people to talk to and connect with to maintain positive communication and avoid a sense of isolation. If you have any questions about mental illness and hearing loss, please reach out to us today to talk to a hearing health professional.