We’ve all felt lonely from time to time. For most of us, loneliness is a short-lived emotion, and it doesn’t stick around for too long. However, older adults with hearing loss are experiencing higher rates of loneliness than ever before. And a recent study found that ongoing loneliness can increase the risk of dying by up to 26%. Being lonely is just as deadly as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Hearing Loss Causes Loneliness
Social connections are what give meaning and purpose to our lives. Our relationships with family and friends give us a sense of safety and a feeling of belonging. When hearing loss makes it harder to connect with our loved ones, these relationships start to break down. Hearing loss makes it hard to communicate easily and naturally. You may have to ask your loved ones to repeat themselves several times, and you might still have a hard time understanding what’s being said. Both you and your loved ones feel frustrated, and your relationships won’t be as satisfying.
Hearing loss also makes it harder to enjoy social events. All that background noise makes it difficult to follow conversations. And when several people are talking at once, it’s almost impossible to hear what’s being said. You feel embarrassed when you can’t hear what your friends say, and before long you choose to stay home rather than straining to hear. When you retreat into your shell, you’re more likely to experience loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
Hearing Loss Can Shrink Your World
If you live with hearing loss, you may experience social isolation and loneliness. You stop meeting family for dinner, and avoid answering the phone because it’s too hard to hear what the person on the other end is saying. You stop attending social events with friends, and stop going to church or other gatherings.
Hearing loss can make you more irritable and frustrated. When you can’t hear clearly you may also say or do the wrong thing. Your family and friends might think you’re being rude or distant, and this further damages these relationships. Hearing loss can shrink your world and lead to loneliness.
Loneliness and Your Physical Health
Loneliness also affects your physical health. When you feel disconnected from those around you, your body responds by going into stress. You’ll have higher cortisol levels, the hormone that regulates stress. You may feel more anxious, and even develop higher blood pressure. Your immune system weakens, and you have an increased risk of an illness or injury. Untreated hearing loss also increases your risk of developing dementia.
Do You Have Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a gradual process, and you may not notice you have hearing loss for several months or years. In fact, if you do miss some sounds, you may think the problem isn’t related to your ears. For example, if you don’t hear the microwave beeping, you might conclude it’s broken. Think back to the last time you heard the birds singing, or heard someone speaking in another room. There may be many sounds around you no longer hear. Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Sleeping through the alarm
- Failing to hear the stove timer
- Having a hard time hearing on the phone
- Turning up the volume on the TV
- Avoiding social events
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Nodding along even if you have no idea what someone has said
Treating Hearing Loss Can Lessen Loneliness
There are many causes of loneliness. Hearing loss is one cause of loneliness that’s treatable. For many years hearing loss was considered harmless. Researchers didn’t realize how hearing loss was connected to loneliness. Now we’re beginning to realize how hearing loss affects physical, emotional, and mental health. That’s why getting a hearing test should be a part of your annual physical exam.
When you can get back to hearing clearly, you will enjoy relationships with your family and friends. Maintaining these close relationships is vital for your health. Hearing aids can help you communicate with the people who matter the most, and help you be more active in your community. Contact us today to find out how hearing aids can lessen loneliness by helping you hear clearly.