Hellen Keller famously said, “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” The path from hearing to loneliness is more clear than you might understand. Especially because, on average, people wait ten years to do anything about their own hearing loss. This can bring on social isolation much more quickly.
As we age, social isolation can increase the risk of many mental and physical health difficulties; such as depression, heart disease, abnormal immune systems, and often dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Although hearing loss occurs at different ages and presents itself in different forms, hearing loss commonly affects a life in a slow, chronological order:
- At around 50 years old, an individual can be fully functional socially and professionally with no signs or symptoms of hearing loss, so life is good.
- As an individual moves into their early 50’s, they may notice they’re missing things. This is usually chalked up to others mumbling, not facing them, people speaking low - often this first phase of hearing loss is attributed to the fault of others.
- As an individual moves into their mid to late 50’s listening situations have worsened, but it still seems manageable. However, the individual may have stopped certain activities and avoids certain situations. At this time, the individual may be noticing difficulties at work, home and socially. Although like before, much of this can be explained away, blamed on others and therefore ignored.
Changes become noticeable at 60
For some it may be earlier or later in years - but for this example we’ll use 60 as the turning point. Now, this same individual is most likely experiencing the following:
- Work challenges have become numerous and the individual has altered their work life to accommodate their hearing loss.
- The individual may also have removed themselves from social situations that cause anxiety due to hearing loss and the stress of not being able to understand speech or identify sounds.
- Family situations may become more taxing and tiring due to not hearing or understanding people speaking around them. The individual may also feel more comfortable not going into loud, public noisy places where it may be hard to distinguish sound and speech.
- At some point, this individual may notice that their life is very different and much more isolated than years before - all due to hearing loss.
Social isolation due to hearing loss didn’t happen quickly
In ten years, the individual’s work, social and family life declined extensively. This individual became isolated due to their hearing loss.
Since hearing loss progresses slowly, people are able to adapt while not noticing they are also withdrawing from life. Quite often, people don’t realize what’s going on until their hearing loss is more advanced.
Use this example as a cautionary tale and don’t ignore your hearing loss. Seek help for your hearing loss before it’s too late to correct. There’s so much life you could miss out on!
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