In 2022, many of us are relishing the opportunity to connect with others. After the last two years, we are eager to attend events, throw parties, and enjoy the social world. These opportunities allow us to not only reconnect with our loved ones and acquaintances form the past but also to make new connections and build our social networks. Yet, the social isolation that so many of us experienced in the past two years can continue for those with untreated hearing loss. Why does hearing loss have such a connection with social isolation? The reasons for social isolation are as varied as the people who experience it, but there are some common themes among those who have hearing loss. Let’s take a look at the ways that untreated hearing loss can contribute to social isolation, as well as the ways that getting treatment can help you stay socially connected.
Social Isolation and Hearing Loss
Why would hearing loss contribute to social isolation? For so many people, the answer is not simple, but a few common themes come up when we talk with these people about their experiences. In the first place, conversations can feel exhausting. When untreated hearing loss makes a conversation difficult to understand, the brain performs mental gymnastics. Rather than experiencing a steady flow of sound and information, hearing loss can present a jumble of random sounds to the mind, akin to a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces. When the mind tries to assemble that sound into something meaningful, the process can cause an increased cognitive load leading to fatigue. The exhaustion can make some people prefer to stay home instead of attending a social event. Others feel embarrassed, frustrated, or anxious in these situations. When a person asks a question, a person with untreated hearing loss can wonder if they’re answering appropriately. Some missteps in conversation can feel embarrassing and lead to further confusion. The possibility of these awkward encounters leads some to avoid conversations altogether. Instead of engaging with the social world, they would rather stay home and save the trouble. Some people with untreated hearing loss even begin to avoid casual encounters at shops, community centers, and their own neighborhoods. A few experiences of confusion can be enough to make them avoid running errands or talking with strangers at all costs.
Treatment and Social Connections
Getting treatment for hearing loss can restore these social connections. Whereas these encounters might have caused anxiety, embarrassment, or frustration in the past, they can now feel fluid and easier to navigate. In the first place, small talk and conversations with strangers can feel easier. Those who have treatment for hearing loss can reengage with their communities, go back to running errands, and restore a feeling of independence. These casual conversations are the foundation of trust in communities, so the feeling of security can radiate to other domains, as well. Beyond these community acquaintances, treatment for hearing loss can also restore close relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. The feeling of disconnection and frustration that used to characterize these interactions can be restored, and many people find that their relationships are strengthened after receiving hearing aids. With treatment in place, a wide variety of relationships can be restored, and anxieties can be relieved. Social isolation comes at a cost for physical, emotional, mental, and cognitive health, so restoring these connections is not a matter to be taken lightly.
If you have hearing loss but have not yet received treatment, just imagine the ways that your social life can change once you have the comfort of hearing assistance. The first step is to schedule a hearing test. This exam will give us the information we need to recommend hearing aids appropriate for your needs, and we will guide you through the process from start to finish. If you are ready to take this first step toward better social relationships, all you need to do is make an appointment for a hearing test. We will guide you from that exam through the process of selecting, dispensing, and fitting hearing aids. Stronger social connections await, so don’t delay making your appointment!