Being alone doesn’t mean we are lonely. In fact, for most of us, those quiet moments of reflection, rest and rejuvenation help us be present for the times we come together with others. Even so, other times, we crave more human connection than we can receive. Some specialists have described prolonged loneliness as an epidemic. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey found that about half of adults in the United States reported measurable levels of loneliness, impacting mental, physical, and societal health. There are many factors which increase the likeliness of loneliness—hearing loss being a major one. However, many find that by diagnosing and treating a hearing loss, feelings of loneliness may subside.
Older Adults and Loneliness
Loneliness is more than just a feeling. It can affect our entire body, increasing feelings of depression and anxiety, raising cortisol levels, which in turn raises blood pressure—putting us at an elevated risk for heart attacks and strokes. Loneliness can take over our consciousness at any age, however, for older adults, loneliness is incredibly common. This can be attributed to factors such as retirement, the loss of close loved ones, mobility issues or health complications which increase barriers and ease of connection with friends and family.
Age Related Hearing Loss and Loneliness
Another factor to consider for aging adults is the increased risk of hearing loss. One in three people 65 years or older will live with hearing loss – a number which rises to one in two, by the time people reach 75 or older. This condition can often come on slowly and become worse overtime, making it difficult to self-diagnose. Hearing loss impacts our ability to hear parts of words at first and progresses gradually to the point where it is difficult to follow conversations even in the most ideal of listening situations. This means that everyday conversations we have with friends, family will become increasingly exhausting and frustrating for people on both sides.
Those without hearing loss may mistake your impairment for you not paying attention or being disinteresting in what you are saying. Meanwhile, the person with hearing loss may feel exhausted by social interactions overtime to the point where they start to opt out of social interactions when they can, rather than subjecting themselves to the embarrassment that an undiagnosed hearing loss often causes.
Hearing loss in 90 percent of cases is a permanent condition which means that you have to treat it in order for it to get better. However, of those 70 and older with a hearing loss, only 30 percent have ever tried treatment. For those in the age bracket between 12-69 years old, an even rarer, 16 percent have attempted to treat hearing loss. This can result in social isolation, chronic depression and social anxiety as years go by.
Treating Hearing Loss to Lessen Loneliness
We collect sound with our ears, but comprehension and listening occur while sounds are being processed in the brain. We achieve this by sending amplified sound vibrations to our inner ear, where tiny hair-like cells send audio waves in the form of electrical impulses to the brain. Hearing loss occurs as damage is incurred to the tiny hair like cells, interrupting the delivery of sound to the brain. While this kind of damage currently can’t be repaired by modern medicine, the good news is that treatment does exist and it certainly seems to lessen feelings of loneliness.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These tiny digital devices sit in or around the ear canal, programmed to amplify the sounds you struggle with based on a recent hearing exam to the brain. This can make it easier to hear the people in your life, from hangouts with friends, getting back in touch with a family member, or even intimate moments with your significant other.
Addressing Your Hearing Health
To get the benefits of hearing aids, the first step is to schedule a hearing exam with us. Don’t ignore the heightened risk of hearing loss as we age. Be proactive by contacting us today to schedule your next hearing exam. We can help you reconnect to the people and the life you love, starting today!