The Hidden Social Effects of Hearing Loss


Thoughtful senior man looks serious as he contemplates life suffering from hearing loss and isolation.

Sometimes hearing loss takes a toll on people without their realizing it. Let’s take an example. Valerie just found out she has moderate hearing loss in both of her ears.

This means that she has a harder time hearing her friends and colleagues.

She skips out on work meetings because she knows she won’t understand them. And she stops visiting friends because it’s just too challenging to chat. When she’s not wearing her hearing aids, Valerie is experiencing very real physical, emotional, and social costs. She’s also hesitant to bring it up with her friends because she doesn’t want to emphasize her hearing loss.

Self-imposed exile

It boils down to this: people with hearing loss often have more difficulty communicating. There’s a chance that Valerie’s co-workers think she’s rude (she doesn’t hear them say “hello,” and so she doesn’t offer a greeting). They may even think she’s distracted or hard to get along with. This type of stereotyping isn’t uncommon for those with hearing loss.

Each interaction for Valerie, then, becomes something of a social minefield. And those interactions become taxing in a hurry. She gets home every day and she’s exhausted from the strain of trying to hear and the strain of trying to interact and deal with any miscommunications.

It’s easy to see why she skipped happy hour. And a big part of the reason is the power of that negative stereotyping–the stigma that can exert a very real social cost.

The solution is deceptively simple

For the vast majority of those with hearing loss, the solution to this social stigma can be somewhat simple: treating your hearing loss. That treatment can take many forms, the most common of which is a hearing aid. Modern hearing aids, after all, can pack an exceptional amount of technology into a very discreet package.

But even when hearing aids are rather visible, there are still significant benefits to your social standing:

  • Hearing aid use can diminish the chances of developing dementia and depression
  • A hearing aid can make it easier to understand your friends and colleagues, leading to more social interaction
  • You’ll be less socially isolated
  • Your hearing aid use (in conjunction with hearing protection) could help slow further deterioration of your hearing
  • Using your hearing aid can help make your hearing loss more visible, which can help people around you better understand it

There is a significant and strong hearing impairment community out there. Getting treatment for your hearing loss (and wearing those hearing aids) can often connect you more thoroughly to the community around you. The vibrancy such a connection can bring to your social life is not to be underestimated.

Challenges and community

To be sure, there are definitely going to be challenges that accompany hearing loss. But many of those challenges–including the social ones–can be mitigated with the right treatment. Hearing loss is an adjustment, but wearing your hearing aids consistently will help you, and those around you, overcome any communication issues faster.

In addition, the ability to stay social is essential when you have hearing loss, leading to all kinds of positive health benefits. Sometimes it can be a bit scary to make that first step. But your social life–and your health–will be better for it.

Want more information?

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