For many of us, our perception of hearing loss is that it is a condition that happens to other people. Many of us fail to consider that hearing loss is a natural part of the ageing process, but it’s a simple fact that it will affect almost half of us as we get older.
It is important to understand that hearing loss can cause a lack of communication, and it can affect many of those around you. Consider your friends, family, colleagues, peers and just about anybody you socialise with – now consider how impaired hearing could affect your relationships with these people, as well as considering how it affects their relationships with you and the wider world.
Studies have shown that a decline in hearing loss also leads to a decline in mental energy. When hearing loss has occurred, the mind must spend more time trying to listen and understand what is being said. Individuals with hearing loss often work incredibly hard to make sense of the world of sound around them.
Loss of hearing can impact upon your ability to make spatial sense of your surroundings, thereby reducing your ability to act upon the information you receive. More attention and effort is therefore required in everyday situations like crossing the road, for example.
While the physical implications of hearing loss can have a serious impact on an individual’s quality of life, the social effects are felt just as widely. Many people with long-term hearing loss find themselves becoming socially more distant, as they struggle to keep up with conversations in social settings, such as a busy restaurant or pub. This can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression as the individual feels they are becoming more withdrawn from society.
The stress caused by long-term hearing loss can cause stress-related illnesses, symptoms of which can include elevated blood pressure levels (hypertension), headaches and muscle tension. While there is no provable physical link between hearing loss and increased blood pressure, some psychologists hypothesise that the social implications of reduced hearing have a large bearing on stress levels.
Speech and language development
Although hearing loss primarily affects older generations, it can also have serious consequences on the communicative development of children who experience hearing loss at a young age. Many children with hearing issues struggle to develop speech and language skills at the same rate as others. However, once detected, appropriate measures can be put in place to continue language development along alternative pathways.
What to do if you think you have hearing loss
If you have noticed that you are having to concentrate more on what people are saying to you, or have started turning the television or radio up louder than usual at home, you should consider making an appointment with an aural health professional such as audiologist or audiometricist. These professionals will be able to arrange for a hearing test, assess you for hearing loss and further advise you on how to preserve your hearing health.