Hearing loss is a growing problem, and not just for the individuals suffering from the condition. For sure, losing your hearing can be hazardous to your mental health, with numerous studies showing that it can lead to depression, anxiety, memory loss, and eventually dementia. But there is a social element to hearing loss that is less regularly discussed, and that is the disastrous toll that the condition can take on the people around you.
Relationships rely on communication. Any type of social interaction, whether you're talking to a romantic partner, a friend, a family member, an acquaintance of even a perfect stranger, requires the ability to effectively exchange ideas. When hearing loss prevents that from happening, relationships have a way of deteriorating quickly.
Because hearing loss is typically gradual, it's often difficult to determine when it's occurring. In general though, experts point out a few warning signs to look out for. One of the most common is the inability to follow conversations in a noisy environment. Since separating speech from other sounds requires a fair amount of processing power from the brain, the inability to do that is often a sign that the brain is receiving unclear auditory information. Additionally, if you are constantly having to ask people to repeat themselves or to speak up, then you may be having hearing problems. Also, if you notice that you watch TV or listen to music at a higher volume than you used to, then you may have cause for concern.
What is at Stake?
So what kinds of interpersonal problems can hearing loss cause? Well, the authors of a new research article out of the UK examined more than 70 studies that had been performed regarding the impact of hearing loss. According to these studies, hearing loss led to a number of emotional issues, for both the sufferers and for those around them. In particular, spousal relationships seemed to be the hardest affected, as both members of the relationship tended to withdraw from one another.
In addition to spouses being affected, friends and family also reported that their relationships with hearing loss sufferers were impacted as well. As a result of hearing loss, conversations and other forms of interaction become strained and frustrating for all parties. As these frustrations mount, hearing loss sufferers become less involved in activities, causing friendships to dissipate and family bonds to weaken. Overtime, sufferers tend to become more isolated.
Fortunately though, there are steps that you can take to prevent these problems. People who have their hearing tested regularly and who wear prescribed corrective devices tend to not suffer as many social setbacks. So if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss, contact an audiologist and get a hearing exam.
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