Social Isolation and Hearing Loss

Social Isolation and Hearing Loss

It isn’t just the ability to take in sound that gets more difficult when hearing loss sets in; hearing loss can make it increasingly difficult for a person to socialize, as well. Embarrassment over the need to ask people to repeat things, and the amount of energy one has to expend in trying to understand conversations, can lead to an overwhelming sense of frustration. In the face of such frustration, it can be very easy for someone to simply give up on trying to interact with others.


People facing the challenge of significant hearing loss can find themselves turning down invitations, not showing up for community events and meetings, basically looking for ways to avoid being around people. At first, that can feel comfortable, as it takes away the stress and anxiety of difficult situations. However, spending more and more time alone can eventually lead to a complete withdrawal from contact with other people.


Social isolation is dangerous for anyone, but on several levels for someone with hearing loss. First of all, the only way to beat the difficulties posed by hearing loss is to be out there practicing and strengthening your listening skills, while also taking active steps toward other options, such as hearing aids. Second, withdrawing from people can weaken your social skills, in general; something as simple as carrying on a conversation is a skill that requires the practice that comes from socializing on a regular basis. Those are a couple of the more immediate, practical reasons for avoiding social isolation; research has found that it can have far more dire consequences.


Staying by oneself, avoiding contact with others out of embarrassment over hearing loss, can lead to depression. We all need at least some level of human interaction in our lives; it’s important to our emotional health. Whether a person is simply frustrated by their hearing loss, embarrassed by it, or angry at his or herself over the inability to hear well, deliberately cutting oneself off from others is a poor choice. It’s essentially an act of emotional starvation, a form of self-abuse that can lead to nowhere good. The damaging effects of depression on the human body are well-documented; doing whatever we can to avoid it is a good idea. Avoiding social isolation by dealing with the reality of hearing loss is an easy way to lessen the risk of depression in a person with impaired hearing.


Depression isn’t the only dire consequence; social isolation has also long been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, which can lead to dementia. Of course, not all social isolation, depression and dementia can be linked to hearing loss, but the fact remains that hearing loss can put an individual at a higher risk for all three. The good news is, it can be very easy to lessen those risks by monitoring one’s hearing health and taking steps to deal with it sooner rather than later. The sooner hearing loss is detected and treated, the sooner one can start avoiding the risk of social isolation and depression.


The connection between hearing loss and social isolation is just one of many reasons why we recommend annual hearing health check-ups. Please make an appointment for a thorough hearing evaluation, so we can establish a baseline to measure your hearing against in the future. By checking your hearing, year after year, we can detect hearing loss as it develops and take steps for dealing with it long before it has the opportunity to affect your ability to interact with others.