Is Hearing Loss Making You Anxious?
Are you finding yourself skipping out on dinner invites or other social gatherings? Do you have a sense that others around you are often angry with you or ignoring you? If you answered yes, your anxiety may be related to hearing loss.
It may surprise you that hearing loss can have a big impact on your mental wellbeing. In fact, a nationwide study from the turn of the century revealed that people with hearing loss, who did not use assistive devices (i.e., hearing aids) had much higher rates of psychosocial disorders than those who did.
Symptoms of anxiety, social isolation, depression, worry, paranoia and general insecurity were commonly reported by persons with hearing impairment – and their loved ones – who did not use hearing instruments.
The emotional and social toll of hearing loss has surprised many researchers, especially because rates of anxiety seemed to be falling among the older adult population in the late 20th century.
It turns out that many seniors simply don’t report the mental and emotional symptoms they are feeling – they typically focus on physical ailments during doctor’s visits. They even go so far as to avoid mentioning difficulty hearing too, as it is culturally a tell-tale sign of aging.
Hearing Loss and Older Adults
The fact of the matter is that over 30% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss. That number is growing to 50% for seniors over the age of 75. As hearing loss is gradual, many people don’t even realize they have it, which can contribute to its negative mental impact.
People with hearing impairment may not just ask others to repeat things in conversation, or consistently need to turn the TV or radio volume up. They may also miss out on key parts of conversations or verbal responses from loved ones or friends.
They can be led to think that they are being ignored or that the person with whom they are speaking is annoyed or frustrated with them. This paranoia can feel awkward, embarrassing and unstable, leading to depression and social isolation.
Tips for Addressing Hearing Related Anxiety
If hearing loss is leading you to avoid social settings, withdraw from conversations, or feel nervous or unsafe about being alone or caring for someone, don’t miss these important tips:
Talk with Your Family and Friends
Even before you see a doctor regarding hearing issues, talk with your family and friends about any issues they have seen arise which may have to do with potential hearing loss.
New behaviors, changes in relationships, and so forth might shed light on the emotional toll hearing loss is having on you.
In addition, close friends and relatives can also help you write down past sound exposure – i.e., loud noises in your work environment – injury and/or chronic infections which might contribute to a hearing specialist’s diagnosis.
Are you having difficulty understanding people over the phone? Are you skipping out on noisy family parties because you feel anxious or embarrassed over your hearing loss?
While getting out of the house is important for your physical and mental wellbeing, finding easier ways to connect with others from the comfort of your own living room can help too.
Free live video call applications like Facetime, Skype and Hangouts can be used on your computer or other smart devices – i.e., iPhone – to talk with family and friends near and far.
Being able to adjust the volume on your device as well as see the person you are speaking with will help you to better hear and understand them during your conversation. Here is a useful list of laptops for seniors.
Start a Dialogue with Your Doctor
Just as slight vision impairments can increase your risk of falling, so can slight hearing impairments affect your health more than you know.
At the first sign of an issue, whether it’s ringing or buzzing in the ear, having difficulty making out a conversation in a room with background noise, or noticing people you speak to seem to sound muffled, go see a doctor for evaluation.
The sooner you address hearing impairment the sooner you can get the tools you need to manage it before it becomes detrimental to your own mental health.
Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, as well as connecting with a counselor or therapist who can help you walk through your own anxieties, may also play a beneficial role in your emotional wellbeing.
Have you experienced hearing a loss-related anxiety? If you do have hearing loss, what signs did you notice first that made you go see a doctor? Please share them in the comments below.