You’re missing calls now. Sometimes it’s that you don’t hear the phone ring. Other times you just don’t want to go through the hassle of having a conversation with a garbled voice you can barely understand.
But it’s not just your phone you’re avoiding. You missed last week’s pickleball game, too. This kind of thing has been happening more and more. You can’t help but feel a little… isolated.
The root cause, of course, is your hearing loss. You haven’t quite figured out how to integrate your diminishing ability to hear into your daily life, and it’s leading to something that’s all too common: social isolation. Trading loneliness for camaraderie may take a little bit of work. But we have a few things you can try to make it happen.
First, acknowledge your hearing loss
In many cases, social isolation first manifests when you aren’t entirely sure what the root cause is. So, noticing your hearing loss is a big first step. That might mean making an appointment with a hearing specialist, getting fitted for hearing aids, and making it a point to keep those hearing aids in working order.
Acknowledgment could also take the form of telling people in your life about your hearing loss. In many ways, deafness is a kind of invisible ailment. There’s no particular way to “look” like you’re hard of hearing.
So it’s not something anyone will likely pick up on just by looking at you. To your friends and co-workers, your turn towards isolation could feel anti-social. Talking about your hearing loss can help those around you understand what you’re going through and place your responses in a different context.
Next, embrace your hearing loss
Accepting your hearing loss–and telling the people around you about it–is an essential first step. And it may help curb some of the first isolationist tendencies you may feel. But there are a few more steps you can take to combat isolation.
Make your hearing aids visible
There are plenty of people who place a premium on the invisibility of hearing aids: the smaller the better, right? But it could be that making your hearing aid pop a little more could help you communicate your hearing impairment more intentionally to others. Some people even go so far as to emblazon their hearing aids with custom art or decorations. By making it more obvious, you encourage other people to do you the courtesy of facing you when they talk to you and making sure you understand before moving the conversation on.
Get the right treatment
Coping with your hearing loss or tinnitus is going to be a lot harder if you aren’t properly treating that hearing ailment. What “treatment” looks like could vary wildly from person to person. But usually, it means wearing hearing aids (or ensuring that your hearing aids are properly calibrated). And even something that simple can make a huge difference in your daily life.
Be clear about what you need
Getting shouted at is never fun. But there are some people who assume that’s the best way to communicate with someone who has a hearing impairment. That’s why it’s essential that you advocate for what you need from those around you. Maybe instead of calling you via the phone, your friends can text you to plan the next pickleball game. If everyone can get on the same page, you’re less likely to feel the need to isolate yourself.
Put people in your path
In this age of internet-driven pizza delivery, it’s easy enough to avoid all people for all time. That’s why intentionally placing people in your path can help you avoid isolation. Go to your local grocery store instead of ordering from Amazon. Get together for a weekly card game. Make those activities part of your calendar in an intentional and scheduled way. Even something as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood can be a good way to see other people. This will help you feel less isolated, but will also help your brain continue to process sound cues and discern words correctly.
Isolation can be dangerous
If you’re isolating yourself because of untreated hearing loss, you’re doing more than curtailing your social life. Isolation of this kind has been linked to cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
So the best way to keep your social life humming along and keep yourself happy and healthy along the way is to be realistic about your hearing ailment, acknowledge the truths, and do what you can to ensure you’re making those regular pickleball appointments.