Hearing Loss and Stress – What You Should Know

Woman sitting on a sofa looking stressed

Nervous about going out to dinner at a noisy restaurant with friends because of hearing problems? Feeling embarrassed or awkward because you’re having trouble understanding what someone is saying to you? The anxiety, stress and social isolation that can accompany hearing loss seems to amplify the magnitude of its effect on your life.

A nationwide study conducted at the turn of the 21st century revealed that the effect of hearing loss went way beyond the physical. Monitoring nearly 4,000 adults with hearing problems and their spouses, the research illuminated significantly higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other psychosocial disorders in those who did not use hearing aids.

Whether you are unsure about what degree of need you have for hearing assistance or if your lifestyle is changing because of hearing-related stress and anxiety, here are some clues to watch out for:

  • Avoiding large gatherings and social situations
  • Awkwardness and embarrassment in conversations
  • Paranoia around difficulty executing simple tasks
  • Feeling depressed and emotionally unstable in your relationships
  • False sense of others being angry with you
  • Feeling unsafe or nervous about being alone or caring for someone

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Approximately one third of all adults over the age of 65 experience some type of hearing problem, but 80% of them never report it. There is help you can seek out as well as other ways to address the stress and anxiety hearing issues might bring.

Even with hearing assistance, as hearing worsens with age and affects your independence and self-reliance, anxiety and stress can find there way in. So what can you do?

1. Seek out medical help, screenings and testing as soon as your concerns about hearing problems are raised.

The longer someone with hearing issues goes undiagnosed or untreated, the longer the window for developing anxiety, depression and unhealthy behaviors surrounding the hearing loss is open, oftentimes unknowingly.

2. Ask loved ones to help you with preparing for seeing a doctor regarding your hearing.

Family and friends may have noticed behaviors or issues to do with your hearing you had not realized before. A full history of injury, chronic infection, and even prolonged workplace noise might also help a hearing specialist find the best treatment for you.

3. Consider a hearing dog.

Get a pet that not only provides therapeutic companionship but that can help with hearing related problems, like not being able to hear a knock or ring of the doorbell. “Hearing dogs” are canines specially trained to assist the deaf and hard of hearing by alerting them to sounds and smells – like alarms, smoke, and phone rings – and physically guiding them to the source. Some of the best dogs for seniors also make great hearing assistants when properly trained by volunteers.

4. See a therapist or counselor.

Regarding your fears, anxiety, or depression specifically, don’t expect hearing solutions like hearing aids to magically make emotional and mental stress disappear. Talking with someone, even meditating and practicing yoga – activities that focus on helping you de-stress as well as treat the causes for your anxiety – are going to be your ticket to success.

Importance of Seeking Help

Not only can hearing impairment be dangerous as far as having trouble hearing noises, voices and potential dangers, but the associated anxiety can affect your physical wellbeing as well. Unhealthy behaviors that go hand in hand with the psychological consequences of hearing-related anxiety include not exercising or staying active, eating an unbalanced diet, and substance abuse.

Hearing loss can truly be a life and death issue. As you age, be smart about talking to your doctor as soon as hearing problems are noticed – from simple ringing and buzzing in the ear, to not being able to hear well in a crowded venue. Your early attention and access to anxiety-preventing resources could transform your life as a person with hearing issues.

This was a guest post by Vive Health co-founder Joe Fleming.

Written by:

Duncan is an Australian-born American-raised creative writer with a passion for healthy ears. He continues to build upon his audiology qualifications with research and various courses.

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  • John Witmer
    I have experienced all of the symptoms you mention. However, you really don't make any useful suggestions about what to do to solve the problems. I see an audiologist and END doctor regularly. I can't stand pets, so that's out. It is so awkward to ask people to repeat that I usually just smile and move on. I have spent a fortune on hearing aids, hearing assisting devices and the like with only spotty and inconsistent results.