The effects of untreated hearing loss
It is important to note that symptoms of social isolation can appear well before a person is diagnosed with hearing loss. This is because hearing loss often occurs gradually, and those affected can be unsure about what is happening. The first signs of hearing impacting emotional wellbeing is the individual’s withdrawal from friends, family and the community.
Hearing loss also exacerbates social isolation due to difficulty communicating with others. When this happens, the individual can rely more heavily on visual cues and can also struggle to keep up and give context to conversations. This ongoing difficulty can then lead to issues such as stress, anxiety and fatigue. Furthermore, friends and family may not understand why their loved one has distanced themselves.
Increase in depression
Over time, social isolation and anxiety from hearing loss can lead to depression. This is because when someone needs to work hard to understand others, it can cause them to give up the interests and activities they once enjoyed. Others may even feel misunderstood by their loved ones. In addition, the individual may experience sadness about the loss of hearing which in turn also affects their mental health.
Some people with hearing difficulties are proactive in finding ways to communicate, while others can become withdrawn.
In 2007, Australian Hearing released a national telephone survey conducted by Newspoll with 2,401 adults who suffered from hearing impairment. The survey found 60% of Australians with hearing loss displayed symptoms associated with depression. Three of the main symptoms were highlighted including increased irritability and frustration (52%), difficulty sleeping 22%, and a loss of interest in most activities (18%).
Balance problems and serious falls.
Hearing loss, the brain and balance
A study conducted by John Hopkins Medical Institution has prompted more research into the connection between the brain, hearing loss and balance. The study has shown you are more likely to experience falls and sensations of being off-balance if you have hearing loss. In fact, the study revealed a three-fold increase in fall incidents in people with mild hearing loss. Furthermore, the incident rate increased with every 10 decibels of hearing loss.
Although hearing loss alone doesn’t cause balance issues, there are a few situations in which balance can be adversely affected by hearing loss or changes within the inner ear.
Eyes and ears work together
When understanding the connection between balance and hearing it is also important to be aware of the connection between your eyes and ears in terms of balance. Essentially, your eyes and ears work together to organise the environment around you. Together, these senses judge the distance between sight and sound (for example we can see lightning and count how far apart the strikes appear in the sky). Therefore if something is affecting your ear, your spacial awareness and balance could be off-kilter.
After drawing these results, researchers came to a variety of conclusions about why hearing loss was linked to loss of balance. Primarily, researchers explained that people with hearing loss are less aware of the environment, increasing their likeliness of being off-balance and therefore increasing their disposition to tripping.
Researchers also speculated that people with hearing loss experienced a cognitive overload. Meaning, hearing loss caused an increased need for the brain to work harder to hear. This demand in turn, lead to a decrease in comprehensive awareness forcing the brain to let one function slip, which in most cases was balance.
Fortunately, with the addition of hearing aids, the brain can focus less on trying to hear and more on understanding the surrounding environment. This means if you are experiencing balance issues and hearing loss, a hearing aid may allow you to achieve better overall balance.
The good news is that there is continual research which proves that hearing aids can reduce the emotional consequences of hearing loss. This means people who wear hearing aids have improved emotional wellbeing and are less affected by depression.
Similarly, if you are unsure if you have hearing issues, but your lack of balance concerns you, it may be time to focus on your hearing.
To gain insights on your hearing you can try our online hearing test or why not take the straight route and make an appointment right now, click the button below and we will meet very soon.