Hearing loss can have many effects on people unrelated to hearing itself. Untreated hearing loss can lead to a higher risk of depression, cognitive decline and dementia, risk of falling, or memory loss. In addition, studies conducted in recent years have revealed a relationship between hearing loss and social isolation; those experiencing hearing loss are prone to greater anxiety and frustration, leading them to withdraw from social interaction.
It’s long been demonstrated that hearing loss has a negative impact on quality of life. As hearing loss progresses, the decreased ability to listen to conversation—especially in the presence of background noise—becomes frustrating, especially when attempting to understand grandchildren, other family members, or caregivers. Many people with hearing loss withdraw from social interaction as a result, potentially causing strain in a marriage, loss of friendships, and other self-imposed, isolating factors. Untreated hearing loss can also lead to safety concerns—like not hearing a pot boiling on the stove or a vehicle approaching in traffic—and a greater risk of being injured on the job. Each of these factors influences a person’s mental health, and when you combine hearing loss and the effects of depression, the isolation is intensified.
The evidence that social isolation can lead to an increase in mental disorders is overwhelming. A recent study by Rogers, et. Al. (The Effects of COVID-19 and Social Isolation on Depression and Daily Stress, Nov. 2020), states, “Humans are social beings by nature. In addition to food and water, we also need social interaction to be healthy.” Bringing this matter to the forefront, social isolation—especially during the time of this pandemic—has seemed to increase and become more common. When you now consider COVID-19 and the impacts on life from necessary precautions to help prevent the spread, such as social/physical-distancing and closures of communicative businesses, this period has also created social disconnection. In my own experience just walking down a sidewalk, the typical gesture of a wave or hello when passing others has been replaced by individuals posturing to separate themselves, look straight ahead, and move quickly with no engagement.
With reference to a group of college-aged individuals, the Rogers study revealed that social isolation and daily stress increased during the pandemic and that depression also showed an increase pre to post-COVID. Again, when you combine hearing loss and isolation, along with the social effects of COVID, the increase in isolation is concerning. This is what makes it important to consistently check in on family and friends, as we can’t make assumptions about anyone’s mental state.
Can using hearing aids and assistive devices reduce these risks? Probably, yes—and there’s no downside to using hearing aids, other ancillary amplification devices, or captioning on TV and phones. If you have any signs or symptoms of and are feeling the frustration of having to deal with hearing loss, we suggest making a hearing evaluation appointment with an audiologist. Many people wait too long to address hearing loss issues and withdraw from conversations rather than deal with the problem directly.
The bottom line is that using ancillary devices to help you hear and communicate is less conspicuous than the hearing loss itself. Connecting and conversing with your friends and family will help your brain stay younger, keep you involved in life, and help you to limit the impacts of isolation.
At CaptionCall, we want to help combat the issue of social isolation for those with hearing loss. That’s why we offer the CaptionCall phone and service. With the help of cutting-edge technology and captioning agents, everything your caller says is presented on the phone’s easy-to-read screen, so you can follow the conversations while you listen. Contact us today to see if you qualify, and we’ll roll out the red carpet to serve you and provide you with no-cost phone and service. If you have hearing loss and need captioning on the go, you can also download the CaptionCall Mobile app, now available for Apple and Android devices.