What are the impacts of hearing conditions?
The impacts of living with a hearing condition touch on:
- A person’s quality of life
- Their social life and relationships
- Their mental and emotional health
- Their overall physical health
Social life and relationships
Social withdrawal means a person feels less connected and less socially active, and it can result in a loss or reduction in social skills. Hearing loss can lead to social withdrawal. It may cause a loss of enjoyment from being with others, and it has a huge impact on relationships. Hearing loss can reduce a person’s social networks, both personal and professional.
Mental and emotional health
Hearing conditions can have a major effect on mental and emotional health too. People with hearing loss and/or tinnitus are more likely to be depressed, lonely or anxious.
Hearing loss can lead to frustration and low mood because of constantly having to ask people to repeat what they’ve said. It can lead to fatigue (being tired) due to increased ‘listening effort’ and the need to concentrate harder on what others are saying.
There is evidence to show that hearing loss increases the risk of cognitive decline. This means a person may not be as ‘sharp thinking’ as they used to be. Work and school performance can suffer too, if appropriate supports are not put in place.
There is also the social stigma to deal with — denial, embarrassment, and poor self-esteem. There are also other people’s perceptions of the person with hearing loss’s mental sharpness. Studies show that many people with hearing conditions have negative feelings about their hearing, such as feeling ashamed to admit it to other people. Many people know about their hearing loss for many years before finally reaching out for help. People put it off for a long time.
So, you can see that there are many consequences of hearing loss, which go well beyond the actual inability to hear certain sounds.
Why are there such wide-reaching impacts?
Hearing is essential to the most common forms of communication. Communication is essential to our ability to live as social creatures, connecting with others around us. Our primary means of communicating with others in our society is via language, through talking and listening. If that process is disrupted, and if we don’t have other means of communicating fluently with others (for example, sign language) then that disconnect can have major impacts on our lives.
You may find value in reading real-life stories from a variety of people living with hearing conditions – how they manage their hearing condition day-by-day, how it affects them, how they sought help for their hearing condition and the outcome of their help-seeking efforts.
Soundfair publishes lived experience stories on its website and social media channels, including video stories on YouTube. Soundfair also hosts an online event each month so that people with hearing conditions can connect and swap notes with a community of individuals experiencing similar things.